How Bookstart can support your library

From increasing footfall and family engagement to forging links with partner services, there are many ways that Bookstart programmes can benefit your library and the services it offers.

We asked librarians for their view on how Bookstart has helped them and their service, and this is what they told us:

'Bookstart resources - both the website and the packs - are a vital way to encourage families to read at home and visit their local libraries with their children. Every family is pointed in the direction of their nearest branch and is made aware of the activities available there. [Bookstart] should increase footfall and keep libraries in the minds of the public, some of whom would not realise these free activities are there for them to enjoy.'

'It's very good PR for the library and gives us a way of getting into settings. It also draws families into Rhymetimes and reading.'

'Some families would otherwise not think to introduce their children to books and libraries and be unaware of the benefits. For others, it celebrates and endorses what they already do and promotes a sense of community. Families benefit socially from attending Rhymetimes and joining in supports children’s language development.'

BookTrust library shelf

How can libraries utilise Bookstart to ensure that it contributes to agendas and targets?

  • Bookstart programmes have signposting to library services within their guidance materials. In addition, many libraries choose to add a joining or information sheet to the Bookstart packs they gift. This encourages families to visit the library and support their child's reading journey
  • Continue to develop partnerships with other directorates and sectors working with disadvantaged families to promote the Bookstart message and libraries
  • Get library books into children’s centres - Bookstart Corner offers a new opportunity for further partnership work between libraries and children’s centres
  • Work with health visitors (as well as speech and language therapists) at the 2-year development check - promoting the importance of  book sharing at this stage in a child’s development and that there is free access to books and Rhymetimes in libraries
  • Continue to lead on Bookstart steering groups
  • Hold regular Rhymetime sessions in libraries
  • Direct families to library websites
  • Invite health practitioners along to gifting sessions in libraries
  • Invite children’s centres and early years settings into libraries to hold their own sessions in the community space
  • Invite parent and toddler groups into the library to use the community space
  • Provide training for practitioners on book sharing, Rhymetime and Bookstart
  • Provide gifting 'packages' for early years practitioners – ideas and suggestions for how to hold a successful gifting session that engages parents
  • Work with early years managers and early years foundation stage teachers to remind them of the importance of promoting one another’s services
  • Encourage health partners to be proactive in promoting the library service. Some health partners complete a joining form with parents and carers when gifting the packs, which can be used by coordinators to enrol families at the library
  • Use the Bookstart Bear to promote the library service
  • Work with local press to promote Bookstart and library services by sharing event news and success stories
  • Make the library a hub for activities

How can libraries encourage families to keep sharing books and engaging with their services after Bookstart gifting?

  • Invite families to free services and sessions such as Rhymetimes and storytimes
  • Refer parents and carers to the BookTrust website and and let them know that they can: search for books by age and theme using the Bookfinder, print out booklists and take them with them to the library, get tips on reading with with their child, listen to stories, play games and lots more
  • Run special events and promotions for National Bookstart Week - this week-long celebration helps keep shared reading in the minds of families
  • Invite local nurseries to have their gifting sessions in the library, or ask if you can attend their setting
  • Engage with the local children’s centre to encourage its families to access your service
  • Connect with other partners' activities and events - it's sometimes beneficial to go to where families are rather than organising separate events

Guidance on gifting Bookstart packs in libraries

Find out more about Bookstart Rhymetimes

Bookstart: forging the way to a multi-agency approach

In this video, Sue Ball of Staffordshire County Council describes how Bookstart has facilitated closer working with health, education and early years services - and strengthened the council's library offer.

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