Delivering Bookstart Baby through the first year

Advising parents on the developmental change babies go through from 0-12 months and how this impacts the way they engage with shared reading.

Each time you meet a family, whether you are giving them Bookstart packs or not, there are opportunities even before birth to promote the importance of shared reading and raise awareness of how they communicate and interact with their baby.

Download the latest Bookstart Baby gifting guidance for practitioners 

Bookstart rhyme sheets

28 weeks pregnant

What could they expect?

Babies start to respond to noise in the womb and can recognise sounds they heard in the womb when they are born.

What advice can you give?

  • Encourage parents to talk and sing to their baby before birth: this promotes bonding and attachment between baby and parent.
  • Encourage fathers to talk to the ‘bump’: this is a great way for them to be actively involved and feel closer to their baby
  • If they feel self-conscious talking to their bump, you could suggest reading. It doesn’t even need to be a book for babies so a magazine will do!

Download Bookstart rhyme sheets to give to expectant parents

Birth to one week

What could they expect?

Newborns can only see a few inches away and prefer high-contrast images.

What advice can you give?

  • Newborn babies love strong, black-and-white images (such as those in Bookstart’s newborn booklet), as they can see them more clearly than the rest of the world!
  • Encourage parents to sing rhymes while holding the baby close so that they can see their face. The human voice is the best tool for soothing, exciting or engaging baby. Reading aloud, singing rhymes and sharing picture books encourages closeness and picture books with rhyming text can be very soothing.

Bookstart’s Newborn black-and-white booklets

One to six weeks

What could they expect?

In their first few weeks, babies start to follow the gaze of others and might be able to look at the book their parent is looking at.

What advice can you give?

  • Explain how reading aloud and sharing a book can contribute to bonding, socio-emotional, and speech and language development
  • Signpost to Bookstart Rhymetimes in libraries and children’s centres where they can access more books and join in with other families. Many libraries have special sessions just for babies and their mums, dads or carers
'Bookstart packs are universal so there is no stigma attached. The children whose families do not share books are encouraged to do so and given the books to enable them to start immediately. The packs also act as encouragement to attend the health check.' Professional Lead Health Visitor, Bury PCT

Six weeks to three months

What could they expect?

After a few weeks, babies might begin to associate books with a warm and loving experience so they might even smile. 

What advice can you give?

  • Describe how sharing a book together helps a parent and baby feel close – encouraging bonding and attachment. Board books which are tactile can encourage babies to interact
  • The melodic sound of a parent’s voice can soothe babies when reading aloud. Older babies can be excited by bright pictures and the anticipation of the next page
  • Finding things to talk about to a baby can be difficult. Books can open a world of possible conversations and enable a parent to interact with a baby with funny voices, noises, facial expressions and gestures when pointing out pictures that are not always afforded in everyday life

Three to four months

What could they expect?

Around this time, babies may start to recognise their own name and reach out to touch the pages.

What advice can you give?

  • Replace a name in the book with the baby’s name to engage them more in this shared experience
  • Explain that it’s okay if the baby tries to grab or chew the book – you can always use some sticky tape to stick flaps back on! 
  • Remind parents that they are their child’s most important teacher and that at this stage they are helping their child to develop a love of books by associating them with a warm and loving experience
'We have open afternoons and invite parents in to come and find out about Bookstart, about the books and what’s going on and encourage parents to take the books home with them and to use them at home with the children. We do it for a whole afternoon, so parents tend to come and go.' Early Years Professional

Six months to one year 

What could they expect?

As they grow, babies become aware that others have intentions and start to engage in joint attention activities, during which they may use pointing to comment on the world to another person.

What advice can you give?

  • Remind parents about the benefits of sharing books daily to encourage a loving and positive relationship
  • Provide more information for families, such as where they can access more books and why visiting the library is good for both the parent and the child
  • Bookstart Corner provides more support with shared reading for families with children aged 12-30 months who need this. If you think the family would benefit from more support, you may want to refer them to a local setting delivering Bookstart Corner

More about Bookstart Corner