Health visitors: gifting the Bookstart Baby pack

With the right messaging and resources, health visitors and other professionals can encourage parents and carers to read with their child every day. Find out more about when to gift the packs, what to keep in mind when gifting and key messages to convey to parents and carers during the gifting process.

Why parents and practitioners value Bookstart Baby

‘It’s a brilliant idea just because… you’re just not sure whether you should be reading and whether it’s appropriate. It kick-starts it.’
Mother of 9-month-old

‘It was really good for [my son] as we didn’t have books at home at the time.’
Mother of 13-month-old

 Baby with Hungry Caterpillar

‘For some of our families the Bookstart books are the ONLY books the children have, and we feel it is so important for children to enjoy books from birth.’
Health visitor

‘Bookstart absolutely fits in. In the work that we do we know how important it is for bonding and attachment and for families to be together, and reading books is the best way of doing that.’
Health visitor.

Find out more about the Bookstart Baby pack

When to gift the Bookstart Baby pack

The Bookstart Baby pack can be gifted at any point in a child’s first year. However, it is important to note that many families do not consider reading with their child until they receive their first Bookstart pack.

Historically, the Bookstart Baby pack has been gifted at or around 7-9 months, as that was when many health visitors saw the biggest number of families.

As the timing of developmental checks has changed, some health visiting teams are now gifting at any point between birth and one year, with many gifting to families at six weeks. Within some local authorities, registrars and other professionals are also gifting Bookstart Baby packs.

If you are considering changing when the pack is gifted, this must be discussed with your local steering group and with your BookTrust Regional Manager. Contact the Early Years team at BookTrust - bookstart@booktrust.org.uk - for further information.

What to keep in mind when gifting Bookstart packs

BookTrust understands that professionals are incredibly busy and have limited time and many important messages to share with parents and carers. Bookstart is not designed to be an additional programme to be delivered, but an evidence-based programme that can help professionals achieve the best outcomes for a child’s development.

Health visitor gifting Bookstart Baby

Given these considerations, the following list indicates things for health professionals to Keep in Mind when gifting Bookstart packs.

  • Open the pack and take out the contents in the presence of the parent or carer. It is ideal to show at least one of the books to the child. For parents and carers who have not thought about reading stories with their child, seeing a child’s eyes light up as they reach for the book will help make the case.
  • For mums, dads and carers who may have low levels of literacy or lack confidence around books, explain how they can enjoy the book simply by looking at the pictures, chatting to their baby/child about what they see and pointing out different things in the book.
  • Recognise that you can use the Bookstart pack as a tool to explore a child’s fine motor skill development, speech and language, comprehension and visual ability.
  • Ensure you know where the family's local library is and when Rhymetime or Storytime sessions are available, advising parents and carers that this is an ideal social occasion for both them and their baby.
  • Encourage parents and carers to visit the BookTrust website to search for their next book and enjoy storybooks, games and interactive content, as well as to find additional hints and tips around sharing books and rhymes.
  • Think in advance whether a Bookshine, Booktouch or Bookstart Star pack may be required for the family. Children are entitled to these additional needs packs alongside their universal Bookstart packs if the family feels this is appropriate.
  • Think in advance whether the family would find community language resources useful. BookTrust provides dual language books and guidance information for parents in many different languages. Find out more about dual language books and resources.

Key Bookstart messages for parents and carers

Dad and baby at health checkThis Keep in Mind list has been developed to help practitioners convey important messages to parents and carers at the point of gifting the Bookstart packs.

The list is not intended to be prescriptive or exhaustive, merely a reminder. We understand that health visitors will use their professional judgement to tailor each situation appropriately.

  • You are your child’s first and most important teacher. Stories, books and rhymes are an essential part of your child’s development, so it’s important to include them in your everyday routine.
  • It is good to start sharing stories, books and rhymes with your child from as early an age as possible. Babies don’t need to understand all the words, they will just love to listen to your voice and receive lots of eye contact and smiles.
  • Reading books, talking about the pictures and cuddling up close together will help you build a strong and loving relationship with your child. Everyone in the family can join in: dads, mums, care givers, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles.
  • Your child will love lots of different kinds of books and will enjoy choosing books for themselves, so it is a good idea to join the library. Libraries welcome all ages, it is free to borrow books and most libraries do not impose fines for the late return of children’s books.
  • As your child begins to see themselves as a reader, they will develop the skills they need to enjoy school and do well in their lessons.
  • Having a baby is tiring and very demanding. Taking time out every day to enjoy a story, book or rhyme will give you and your child time to escape the everyday, enjoy each other’s company and get to know each other better.

Video: Bookstart Baby gifting in practice 

This video shows a health visitor gifting the Bookstart Baby pack to a family and offering guidance on how reading every day can help the parent support their child’s development.

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