'Bookstart Corner is making the difference'

Bookstart Corner Champion Jessica Lanham reflects on her experience of using the programme to promote book-sharing to families needing more support.

Jessica is School Readiness Project Lead, at Branksome Children’s Centre in Poole, supporting families with a range of needs.

Jessica Lanham's Bookstart Corner area for families

How have you used Bookstart Corner resources to support families?

We use the Bookstart Corner books as the focus for our sessions with families. The resources bring the session to life and form part of their home learning activities. They are also used one-to-one in the home with our Starting Out at Home Family Outreach Workers. We have the books out in each of the children’s centres around Poole for families to access within groups and services.

What does a typical Bookstart Corner session look like at your children’s centres?

In Poole, Bookstart is run by delivering group sessions over the course of six weeks to families of children between 1 and 3 years with either vulnerabilities such as low income, domestic abuse, involvement with social care or speech and language concerns. An overview of the course is taken from the Bookstart Corner programme as we focus on:

  • Songs and rhymes
  • The importance of reading
  • Mark-making
  • Bringing stories to life
  • Library visit
  • Story time

Each session is an hour long and follows this pattern:

  • Circle time – where we sing the Hello song and deliver the key messages, as well as asked what they have done differently this week because of the weeks before session.
  • Story time – where we read a story (this helps if each child has a book, so we tend to use a Bookstart Corner pack book or the Pyjamarama book such as Car, Car, Truck, Jeep)
  • Free play – with activities that link to the key messages
  • Story/ Singing time – at the end of the session we join together as a group to either listen to a story or sing rhymes
  • Handout – at the end of the session we give each child a gift from their Bookstart corner pack.

What changes to family reading habits have you observed?

When our session is around a Bookstart Corner book that the child can enjoy at home, quite often the parent will feed back a week or more later that it has become their child’s favourite and they always request it as a bedtime story.

The evidence we have collated shows that Bookstart Corner is making the difference, encouraging reading and singing and therefore supporting children’s communication and language development.

We have had families that were nervous about accessing the library for fear that their child would run around and be noisy. However, with the support of practitioners from the children’s centre, families have overcome their fear and say they will go to the library again.

What advantages does Bookstart Corner offer children’s centres?

The programme offers a variety of books that families can read together in a cosy space within the children’s centre, as well as something for families to use at home. Some families have very few books, so this is fantastic for them.

It facilitates joined-up working with local professionals, to deliver the ethos of Bookstart and encourage parents and carers to read with their children, as well as to mark-make and play together.