Benefits of gifting for health visitors

Reading with children is a key element of the home learning environment, and it's not only children and families who can benefit from the Bookstart programme. Gifting Bookstart packs can also support and enhance the wonderful work that health visitors do.

Health visitor gifting Bookstart Baby

Supporting parents and carers

When health practitioners talk to parents and carers about Bookstart it gives them the opportunity to introduce the idea of reading* books from birth and to raise awareness of how important this is.

Getting into this habit helps parents with:

  • Building a strong and loving relationship with their child
  • Developing their child’s communication skills and supporting their wellbeing
  • Encouraging pre-literacy and social skills for a flying start in life for their child

Bookstart sows the seed that parents are their child’s first and most enduring teacher and that they can help their child’s development substantially by simply reading aloud and interacting with their baby. Health partners can help families discover that the things they do with their children in their home learning environment are key to future development and helping their child become a confident and enthusiastic learner.

For parents and carers, knowing that they are giving their child the best start in life can be a powerful motivator, and teaching their child to love books can be one of the greatest gifts they can give them.

Find out more about the Bookstart Baby pack

An opportunity for health visitors

‘Bookstart is a tremendous gift to health visitors.’
Health Visitor, Staffordshire

As well as directly benefiting families, Bookstart has potential to support the work of health visitors by:

  • Providing a practical, free resource for health professionals which can act as an incentive for parents to attend developmental reviews
  • Promoting secure attachment
  • Supporting the development of confidence and self-esteem for both child and parent
  • Aiding cognitive development
  • Supporting the development of speech and language
  • Aiding socio-emotional development, good mental health and wellbeing
  • Helping to lay foundations of good literacy skills and prepare the way for school
  • Supporting the development of fine motor skills, listening and concentration
  • Breaking intergenerational cycles of disadvantage

The quality of the information given by the health professional to parents and carers when gifting a Bookstart pack is essential. These key messages regarding the benefits of reading as a shared family activity ensure that children gain the maximum benefit from their book gift.

Ideally, the books and the information for parents and carers will be explored with the family and they will be encouraged to enjoy the pack and think about joining the library. Sharing information with parents and carers about how reading every day can benefit their child is all part of the Bookstart gift.

*Reading/read refers to all related activities: talking, singing and saying rhymes, storytelling and reading books together

Health visitor and mum gifting Baby

How Bookstart supports children's development

Bookstart supports every child’s early learning and development and contributes towards narrowing the gap at age five by:

  • Improving emotional well-being, bonding and secure attachment Reading every day helps to build a strong and loving relationship between parent and child through a shared fun activity
  • Developing parental confidence and knowledge Parents and carers become more confident in how to read with their baby or child, how to enhance the home learning environment and how to access books. Research has shown that regardless of a parent or carer’s environment or academic status, it is what they do with their child that makes the difference
  • Early literacy Sharing books, stories and rhymes helps lay the foundations of good literacy skills. The confidence and motivation brought about through encouraging reading for pleasure and exposing children and families to a wider range of reading materials are among the foundations of improving overall literacy outcomes and, consequently, social mobility and attainment at all stages of development
  • Supporting communication and language Sharing stories supports the development of speech and language, boosts listening and concentration skills and helps to establish a daily routine. Research also shows that increasing the books to which a child has access at six months improves their expressive vocabulary at 24 months
  • Narrowing the gap Sharing books, stories and rhymes from an early age helps prepare children for school by improving their vocabulary, showing them how books work and developing their curiosity about the world
  • Personal, social and emotional development Sharing stories and talking about books helps children develop empathy and encourages them to recognise and talk about their feelings. It also supports families in connecting with their children as the book gives them opportunities to explore wider issues

The WAVE Trust has produced compelling evidence that: ‘If a child is born into a home where they are nurtured, where conversation takes place, where someone reads to them (even at an age where they cannot understand) then, quite simply, their brain develops properly.'

BookTrust and the professionals who deliver Bookstart work in partnership to support every parent to enable them to read with their child every day.

‘If parents can’t parent properly because they are poor, depressed, pressed in by circumstances... then we need to be there to support those parents. I suspect that a simple intervention like reading to children every day is something that, if parents can’t do it, others could step in and help. It can make a huge difference.’ Sir Michael Marmot (Fair Society, Healthy Lives)

Find out how Bookstart links into the Healthy Child Programme

Bookstart Black and White Booklets are also gifted by some health professionals throughout England. Find out more about the booklets here.

Dad and boy reading

Bookstart and health visiting – what next?

The success of Bookstart relies on the strength of the partnership between BookTrust and local professionals and the quality of the delivery to families. Ideally, BookTrust would like to see Bookstart recognised and embedded in every health and wellbeing strategy and delivered in partnership between all health, library, speech and language, and early years professionals.

Health partners can continue to make a huge difference to the lives of children and families by starting them out positively on their journey with books and reading - and the lifetime benefits this can bring.

‘I do know there are some children that don’t have any books of their own. Books are just not part of their homes. So the fact they’ve got really lovely, quality books going into their homes must have a huge impact for them. I think that helping the parents to realise how vital their role is in the whole process, both in the enjoyment and the learning to read, must have a huge impact.’
Early years professional

Watch the Bookstart and health visitors video

Elaine Meredith, Clinical Lead for Health Visiting Services in Birmingham, talks about the value of the Bookstart programme for health visitors, multi-agency and co-location working, and building relationships within the community that benefit all families and children.

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BookTrust offers a range of packs that you can gift to families as part of the Bookstart programme. Find out how our universal, additional needs and targeted packs can help get your families sharing books together every day.