Bookstart and the Healthy Child Programme: part two

Continuing our tips and guidance on incorporating Bookstart into the Healthy Child Programme (HCP) through reviews for children aged three months to five years.

How to incorporate Bookstart into the HCP: making every contact count

Three to four months

  • The Bookstart pack can be gifted at this contact if decided and agreed locally
  • Parents should ideally be shown the contents of the pack and supported to understand the benefits of developing a daily reading habit 
  • Health visitors could model how a book can be shared with the baby, letting parents know what the baby can see and hear 
  • 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 parents and carers can access more books and mix with other families 
  • 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
  • Access dual language resources for families whose first language is not English via the local Bookstart Coordinator 

health visitor hands book to dad and baby

Six months to one year – health review by one year

The HCP suggests gifting the Bookstart pack at this developmental review. Bookstart packs can be gifted at this point if decided locally, however some health teams have decided that developmental, health and wellbeing outcomes can be greater if gifted at an earlier opportunity, especially in cases where developmental checks are taking place at 12 months.

Gifting at 12 months can result in a missed opportunity to talk about how reading books on a daily basis can contribute towards a child’s development. It may also mean that parents are not signposted to Rhymetimes in libraries, where parents can make friends and find a network of support.

If the Bookstart pack was gifted at an earlier contact, take the opportunity here to ask about how they are getting on with sharing stories and rhymes. Have a picture book available to model again how a baby responds to a book and how it can be shared. Use the opportunity to discover if the parent has any concerns around how to share books. They may disclose that they have concerns around their own literacy skills.

  • Remind parents about the benefits of sharing books on a daily basis 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
  • Access dual language resources for families whose first language is not English via the local Bookstart Coordinator
  • Signpost families that would benefit from more support to children’s centres for participation in Bookstart Corner
‘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

One to three years

  • Reinforce the message to parents about the importance of reading books on a daily basis, where they can access more books and why visiting the library is good for both the parent and the child
  • Provide evidence to parents about how sharing books on a daily basis and singing rhymes promotes language development
  • Signpost parents to the Bookstart website for further support and fun activities around sharing books and rhymes
  • For children that need additional support, refer families to children’s centres and possible participation in the Bookstart Corner programme. Children’s centres may also offer The Rhyme Challenge which can support language and communication development
  • Access dual language resources for families whose first language is not English via the local Bookstart Coordinator
'I remember when [my daughter] got them… they were some of her favourite books. We got them when she was really young and we didn’t know what we should be doing. There was one with lots of facial expressions - that was really valuable.’
Father of 4-year-old

 Parents and girl in stripy top

Three to five years

  • Support parents to access their Bookstart Treasure Gift by letting them know that they will either receive one from their child’s Early Years setting in the year before they start school or that in some areas they can collect one from their local library. Your Bookstart Coordinator can let you know what arrangements you have locally
  • Reinforce key messages about daily reading at every opportunity. Remind parents that sharing books should be a fun activity and not a focus on the skill of reading, if this would impact negatively on the enjoyment of the child 
  • Signpost parents and carers to the Bookstart website
  • Explain how sharing a book ‘dialogically’* can have positive outcomes. Signpost to dialogic tips on the Bookstart website - also beneficial for parents who appear confident reading to a child. Sharing books in a dialogic way makes the experience more interactive and has benefits in improved speech and language development
  • Encourage parents to read books in which their child can identify with the characters and develop an understanding and empathy with others. Inform parents how sharing books can be an opportunity to discuss a child’s feelings and experiences, or deal with issues such as having a new sibling, separation or bereavement 
  • Explain to parents how singing rhymes and sharing a book on a daily basis will help their child become confident and enthusiastic readers that are ‘ready for school’

*Dialogic reading is a technique that encourages parents and carers to prompt their child with questions and engage them in discussion whilst reading with them. By building on their child’s response, the child is encouraged to reiterate names, objects and events in the book and eventually learn to retell the story in their own words.

Dialogic reading is having a conversation together about the book being shared and helps children to build and reinforce basic language and literacy skills, which in turn will help them become a confident and enthusiastic reader.

Bookstart and the new Integrated Review at two to two and a half

The Ages and Stages ASQ3 will be used to measure development. There will be an opportunity for health and early years practitioners to promote the Bookstart programme and to encourage and support parents to establish a daily book reading routine.

This review is an ideal time to support parents to read with their child every day. The ASQ3 questionnaire specifically asks how a child interacts with books, how they respond to questions asked when looking at pictures in books together and how well they turn the pages, assessing their fine motor control.

‘It [Bookstart] makes families feel valued, and because they know that all families are getting it and you’re giving them all the same thing, and gives you a way in to talk about lots of different things... Families who are hard to reach know about Bookstart and they will come to you about it. You can access that family without them thinking they’re not doing so well... You can just go round and say: "I’ve got your Bookstart pack," and go in and have a chat. It creates that accessibility for you without pointing a finger.’
Health Visitor

 Jump to Bookstart and the Healthy Child Programme: part one

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