Working with teenage parents

By working in partnership with those directly supporting teenage parents, Bookstart can demonstrate to these often less confident families how early interaction with their baby and shared reading can help improve their child's life chances.

Some teenage parents receive Bookstart packs through traditional routes such as health visitors, but where this is difficult, Bookstart programmes work with teenage parents through:

  • Children's centres
  • Youth offending institutes
  • Care to Learn - a scheme targeting young people not in education, employment or training
  • The Youth Service
  • Home-Start
  • Local authority-run early learning and development young parent groups
  • The Family Nurse Partnership, which provides intensive, nurse-led visiting for vulnerable, first-time young parents. Family Nurse Partnership nurses visit parents from early pregnancy until the child is two years old, building close, supportive relationships with the whole family and guiding mothers to adopt healthier lifestyles, improve parenting skills and become more self-sufficient. The Family Nurse Partnership operates in some local authorities, but not all.

Bookstart partners often gift packs during home visits or young parent sessions and many also gift other Bookstart offers, including Newborn packs, Bookstart Treasure packs for 3-4-year-olds, and the targeted Bookstart Corner programme.

Young mum and baby

Some considerations to keep in mind when gifting to teenage parents 

  • Some young parents may not be very receptive of Bookstart packs if they are not very confident readers themselves
  • Smaller groups of young parents are better than larger groups, to help keep their attention when talking about Bookstart and when gifting the packs
  • Don't make any prejudged assumptions that young parents/carers do not want to read to their child - most do, but just don’t have the confidence

Gifting advice and ideas from practitioners

  • Gifting in the home. Talk to the parents about the pack and set out some activities over the course of the next few weeks that relate to the books and resources. With the added activities, the pack is extended, continuing the child’s interest beyond the session (see Bookstart Treasure: communicating with parents for more information)
  • When gifting, try to keep the parent/carer engaged and if there are any siblings, ask if they would like to share a book with their brother or sister
  • Highlight to parents/carers the importance of reading to children from a young age
  • Build the gifting into a session about daily routines by showing parents and carers how different books and activities can be incorporated, i.e. by including book-sharing in their child's bedtime routine
  • Support parents/carers in exploring their local libraries, mentioning library joining for their child and any local Rhymetimes and storytimes sessions they could attend

The benefits of Bookstart 

Bookstart can be a very valuable tool in engaging young parents. Here are just some of the ways it can help:

  • Ensuring that this parent group does not miss out on getting their Bookstart packs, as not all teenage parents attend settings such as children’s centres
  • Providing books for families who might otherwise have none at home
  • Raising awareness of books and supporting parents/carers by providing an age-appropriate book
  • Encouraging reading for the whole family
  • Reinforcing the idea that reading is a norm for all parents
  • Engaging parents/carers in conversation with libraries and showing how these are accessible to everyone
  • Supporting practitioners to identify whether there are any reading problems within the family

Abigail Nelder, a practitioner at the Family Nurse Partnership in Plymouth explains how the programme helps her service introduce the importance of books and rhymes to young parents:

'Many of our clients do not come from a background where books feature in their homes and therefore this is not something that is mirrored in their own homes. The Family Nurses use Bookstart as a way to introduce books to both mum and baby. The fact that they are free and non-returnable is an extremely effective way of engaging mums.

Many of our clients have never heard of nursery rhymes, so the additional sheets with the beautiful drawings and words help greatly in encouraging parents to sing to their baby. Throughout the whole two-and-a-half-year experience with our clients, reading and using this as a way of bonding with their baby is key.

The Bookstart packs therefore help to reinforce the materials, support and facilities available to them to continue into the toddler phase.'