The success of Bookstart has inspired many similar schemes around the globe, from Japan to Canada, from New Zealand to Korea.
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Austria: Buchstart Salzburg: mit Büchern wachsen
This government-funded scheme was established in January 2015, as part of the Leseland Salzburg (Reading Land Salzburg) programme, which has the goal of all local children being literate by the time they complete compulsory education. The desired reading and writing skills include text comprehension, reading enjoyment, media literacy and familiarity with books and ‘literary’ language.
The Buchstart Salzburg programme specifically aims to reach every baby in the Land Salzburg (about 5,000 children) a few days after birth. Every mother is given the ‘Elternbrief’ (‘letter for parents’) and the Bookstart book Das bin ich. Ich zeig es dir (This is me. I’ll show you.) In the future, they aim to learn from other Bookstart providers and extend the programme step-by-step in co-operation with public libraries and Bibliothekswerk.
As well as gifting books throughout England, Wales and Northern Island, Bookstart also operates in the Channel Islands. In Guernsey in 2010, nearly 1,500 children received book packs; in Jersey, over 800 babies received their Bookstart packs.
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Flanders, Belgium: Boekbaby's
Inspired by Bookstart in the UK, Boekbaby's aims to bring every child and parent in Flanders into contact with books.
Over 20,000 children receive packs of books every year throughout 110 communities. Packs are provided for babies when they are 6 months old at their local health centre. At 15 months, parents are encouraged to get a second pack from their local library. In addition, throughout Flanders, parents can get two brochures with information about books and reading in healthcare centres.
Boekbaby's is coordinated by the reading organisation Stichting Lezen, who have used research from Bookstart in the UK to convince local partners. Main partners in the programme: local authorities, the public libraries and Kind en Gezin, the Flemish government agency for the well-being of young children and their families through family support services.
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The Bogstart programme runs in 15 cities around Denmark, and targets areas with particuarly high levels of unemployment. It aims to give families positive experiences of sharing books, which helps preschool children develop vital language skills.
Since launching in 2009, Bogstart has given packs of books to nearly 7,000 children every year. The packs, which are given out at local libraries, are gifted at four stages: at 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and 3 years.
Branch libraries have forged partnerships with local societies, unions, clubs and housing associations, and Bogstart have also forged links with the Danish prison service.
Libraries are already reporting an increase in both memberships and visits, and further evidence of the programme's impact is expected upon the completion of an evaluation.
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The Lesestart programme aims make a difference to children's literacy and language skills by introducing them to reading as early as possible.
Lesestart packs are gifted at three stages – at a child's health check-up at 12 months; at three years by the local library; and when the child starts school.
At present, 400,000 children get packs every year – and by 2016 this is expected to increase to 700,000. All packs include an age-appropriate book as well as guidance material for parents that explains how reading can help their child develop.
Lesestart is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. There are also important partnerships with the German Library Association, the Association of Pediatrics, as well as welfare institutions.
The evaluation of the pilot project in Saxony showed the impact of gifting book packs:
- nearly 1 in 4 families went to the library and bought books more often
- nearly a third of parents read more with their children
- 1 in 4 talk more often about what they read within the family.
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Hamburg, Germany: Buchstart
Established in 2007, Buchstart promotes the love of books from an early age and aims to make parents aware of the advantages of sharing books with their babies and toddlers.
The programme was started by the Hamburg Department of Culture and receives much of its funding from the city's government. Buchstart gets further financial backing from local companies and foundations, with the main sponsor being publishers Gruner+Jahr AG. Organisations have been very supportive of Buchstart because they believe it fills a gap for children, both in terms of culture and in education.Buchstart were inspired by many of the practical ways that Bookstart runs in the UK, and worked along those lines to find their own 'best practice'.
Buchstart packs are handed outto almost every one-year-old child in Hamburg at their health check-ups. About 18,000 children benefit from receiving a pack every year.
In addition, there are around 50 groups across Hamburg for parents and their young children that meet every week to sing nursery songs and share books. Some of these groups are held in languages other than German, such as Turkish, Russian and Portuguese.
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Italy: Nati per Leggere
Funded mainly by public and private donations, Nati per Leggere offers free children’s books to families throughout Italy, with a particular focus on those in disadvantaged areas.
Since the programme started in 1999, more than 250,000 children every year have benefited from free books – a third of the entire target population. Families get their books when they are visited by their paediatrician, although in some areas children get their books at their first library visit.
Research has demonstrated how effective the programme is. As well as improving families’ attitudes to reading, Nati per Leggere has also increased parents reading aloud with their children, and has halved the percentage of parents not reading to their children
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South Tyrol, Italy: Bookstart – Babies Love Books
Bookstart – Babies Love Books operates in the South Tyrol region of northern Italy, and gives packs of books to around 5,000 children every year. These are given to around 80% of children at two stages – to babies at 6 months old, and to toddlers aged 18 months.
Launched in 2007 and funded by the provincial government, Bookstart in South Tyrol has forged a key partnership with hospitals, who tell parents about the programme. Additionally, the programme has trained library staff to organise activities to promote Bookstart locally and to let parents know how important it is to share books.
Working with libraries, health centres, publishers and other partners, BoekStart encourages parents across the Netherlands to start reading with their baby.
With backing from national and local government, packs of books and tips are gifted to babies in their first year. At present, between 60,000 and 75,000 babies (about 40% of the total) get packs every year, and there are plans to expand the programme to reach 90%, as well as offering the programme to older children through daycare centres.
Since launching 2011, nearly four out of five libraries in the Netherlands work with Boekstart, and benefit from the many children and parents who join the library as a result of the programme.
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Portugal: Crescer a Ler
Established in 2009 by the Professional Association of Childhood Education (APEI), Crescer a Ler (Read to Grow) is the national programme for Portugal that promotes a love of books and encourages families to read together.
Books are gifted to all newborn babies at their civil registration in hospital. In addition, at various stages children get free books from their local library, so that each child in Portugal can get three to four books before their sixth birthday.
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Dublin, Republic of Ireland: Preparing for Life
Preparing for Life launched in April 2007 and gifts book packs to babies in the northside of Dublin. Run by a local development company, the Northside Partnership, Preparing for Life is co-funded by national government and philanthropic organisations.
Targeting the more economically deprived north side of the city, the programme promotes children's development through the gift of book packs to every child before they start school.
Wexford, Republic of Ireland: Books4Babies
Inspired by Bookstart in the UK, Books4Babies launched in 2012 as a pilot in Wexford, Ireland, and will gift books to around 1,200 babies over two years. The scheme is organised through a voluntary charitable organisation and encourages parents and carers to regularly read with their babies and use the local library.
A Books4Babies Ireland gift pack contains two books (chosen by a panel of experts), information to parents on the importance of reading, an invitation to join the local library and information about local services. Packs are distributed by public health nurses at a baby’s 7–9 month developmental check, so that parents learn about the importance of early learning and books as part of a professional consultation.
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Pozega, Serbia: ‘For Every Baby a Book’ (Za svku bebu knjiga)
Based in the town of Pozega in Serbia, the ‘For Every Baby a Book’ programme exists to inspire a love of books in preschool children. Funded by the Serbian ministry of culture, ‘For Every Baby a Book’ started in 2011 and aims for every child in the town to receive a book pack.
At their baby’s first year health check-up, parents are invited to get their pack by going to the local library. Packs include a book, bookmarks, a bookplate and membership card for the library.
As well as the gift of the book packs, the local librarian visits the kindergarten to explain to parents how important it is to share books from an early age.
In the city of San Sebastian in the Basque region of Spain, weekly events organised by Mestiza offer preschool children and their parents or carers the chance to get involved with books and stories together.
There are three 'Txiki Kids Corner' activities on offer at local libraries, in Spanish, Basque and English:
- Leer Antes de Leer (‘reading before being able to read’) is for babies and toddlers up to three years old.
- Liburu Bat – Mundu Bat (‘one book – one world’) is for toddlers from age one up to age four.
- Liburu Baby Kluba (‘Baby Book Club’) has the same format as 'Leer antes de Leer' but in a different library.
As well as sharing stories, there are activities such as playing musical instruments or painting and, at the last session, children are given free books, donated by the library. Thanks to the programme, parents read more to their children, visit and borrow more books from the library and buy more books to share. The programmes have run since June 2009 and are funded mainly from local government.
Buchstart Schweiz, Switzerland
Buchstart Schweiz is a national programme that gifts book packs to around 35,000 babies every year. Launched in 2008, the pack is given in a babies' first year, and reaches just under half of all Swiss children.
Packs are gifted at various times in a child's first year, depending on where in Switzerland they live. In the French-speaking region, packs are given in the hospital when the child is born; babies in the Italian-speaking part get packs when they are 6 months, and children in the German-speaking areas receive their pack at 6-12 months. Packs are gifted by paediatricians, parental or health care advisors, or libraries – all of whom work together in local networks.
Buchstart Schweiz has also linked up with the national library federation to run courses for librarians, supporting them to create baby-friendly Buchstart spaces in their libraries and organise family events. As a result of Buchstart, libraries in Switzerland are now more accessible for families to use and enjoy.
Buchstart has also helped libraries forge new partnerships with local pediatricians and other health professionals. Library staff are also now starting to work together with specialists to support families with other languages.
Launched in 2008 with government funding, today Buchstart Schweiz is funded through reading non-profits Bibliomedia and SIKJM, as well as various lottery funds in each canton.
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Started in October 2013, this bilingual programme is run by the Ministry for Education, in collaboration with an existing programme Reading 'n' Rhymes, and the Centre for Literacy of the University of Malta.
The objectives of the programme are to promote a love of books among children aged 0-3 years through fun and playful activities and by involving their parents or caregivers. Enthusiastic volunteers are trained to engage both children and their parents. Most of the highly interactive sessions are conducted in local libraries. In the first phase of the project, packs with books in both Maltese and English are made available to the parents and children groups. Volunteers are provided with relevant training and opportunities to observe and participate in demonstration sessions.
Through a combination of government and private support, it is hoped that the initial phase of the programme will reach 300-500 children. Additional sponsorship and funding are being sought to make more books available to the parents and children groups. Through increased funding and support the programme coordinators hope to extend this to more families, as well as provide parental education opportunities, training courses and materials about the benefits of shared reading, etc.
Find out more about the Centre for Literacy:
Punto de Cuento, Spain
This privately sponsored programme was established in October 2013 by Unpuntocurioso – a children’s literacy and creativity centre in Salamanca.
Described as a ‘kind of tiny library’, the Punto de Cuento programme gifts books to children at 9 months and reaches around 20 families per month. The target is families with children really interested in reading as a means of communication. The overall objective is to promote reading for children aged 9 months to 3 years, but work is also being done on a bilingual programme for babies.
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More than 2 million babies have received a Bookstart pack in Japan since the programme launched in 2000. Now running in over 40% of all local authorities, more than 430,000 babies received a pack in 2010 alone.
Most of the Bookstart packs are gifted at a baby's health check-ups, and in some areas there is a further pack to children over 18 months old. Each scheme is coordinated by a local working group of local librarians, health professionals and volunteers. When gifting a pack, they demonstrate the joy of sharing books to babies and their parents or carers, encouraging families to try it at home.
The funding for the Bookstart schemes in each local authority comes mainly from the local government. The programme is administered by a non-profit organisation, Bookstart Japan, which provides advice on sharing books, organises workshops and conferences, and publishes newsletters and handbooks to share best practice between schemes. Through the support of publishers, Bookstart Japan also produces quality packs at low cost, which are then bought by local schemes.
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Bookstart Korea aims to inspire, stimulate and create a love of reading that will give children a flying start in life. Launched in 2003, the programme gifts free packs of picture books and runs book play events.
Books packs are given to babies at age 6–18 months, at 19–35 months (Bookstart Plus), and at 36 months to 6 years (Bookstart Treasure Box). In 2010, over 100,000 children in South Korea received these packs in 48% of the country. By 2013, Bookstart Korea plans to reach every baby born in the country – a total of 450,000 children.
Funded through government and private donation, Bookstart Korea is delivered through partnership with libraries, health care centres, village offices and local culture centres.
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Since 2005, the Bookstart scheme in Thailand has delivered gift bags to every newborn – approximately 800,000 babies every year. The gift bag includes a handbook for parents, a baby book, a plastic book, a lullaby CD and a toy mobile. The programme is managed by National Institution for Brain-Based Learning.
China: Reading Baby
This government-funded programme was established in 1914 and is run by Suzhou Library (Jiangsu Province), which is based on the service concept of ‘Equality, Free, Professional, Courteous, Efficient’.
Each year, the “Reading Pack” is distributed to 5000 families with infants aged 0-3, which accounts for around 16% of newborns in Suzhou City (according to 2012 data). The pack includes a child readership card, an activity brochure, a height ruler for kids, a picture book and a guide book of how to conduct parent-child reading.
The goal of Reading Baby is to provide guidance to parents around how to share the fun of reading with children and allow more kids to benefit from early reading, while cultivating it as a lifelong hobby and promoting their overall development. Aside from providing the reading pack for free, there are plans to hold more reading events, such as lectures on parent-child reading, a Parents salon, "Story mother" training, as well as conducting children's mental health counseling, recommending reading lists, and setting up a special area for "reading baby" activities in the library.
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Launched in June 2014, Bookstart Indonesia is the first bookgifting initiative in the country and is funded through individual donations, government funding and private sponsorship. The priority is children aged under-5 in deprived areas, with the aim of reach 1,000 children in the first year, and doubling that subsequently.
Bookstart Indonesia strives to build awareness around the importance of instilling a love of reading from an early age through bookgifting, campaigns and small-scale community reading clubs and libraries. Due to the absence of local libraries, books are posted to local volunteers who distribute them at bookgifting events. Increase in attendance at reading clubs has been seen from the start and Bookstart Indonesia plans to become the main government partner in developing children’s literacy across this large and populous country.
Ottawa, Canada: Ready to Read Baby Bag / Sac à livres pour bébé Prêt à lire
Working in partnership with public health, healthcare providers and midwifery organisations, around 8,000 newborn babies receive a Ready to Read Baby Bag every year. Book bags are filled with 'The Incredible Directory' (a parent resource list), a certificate redeemable for a free board book as well as further early literacy information.
Bags are mostly gifted through nurses and midwives, as well as through libraries. Library branches also offer sessions with songs, fingerplays and rhymes for babies and their families.
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Nova Scotia, Canada: Read to Me!
Read to Me! is a non-profit early literacy organisation that gives a free bag of books and literacy resources to every baby in Nova Scotia. The bag is gifted at 11 hospitals in the province, within 24 hours of birth at the hospital bedside.
The programme reaches all 10,000 babies born in the province each year, and, as of 2011, had given out nearly 75,000 bags in all.
Read to Me! is delivered by a team of over 100 volunteers and hospital staff across the province.
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USA: Reach Out and Read
Reach Out and Read encourages families to read together and prepares America’s youngest children to succeed in school by giving out 6 million books every year.
The programme works with doctors who 'prescribe' books to families. Parents are advised at their child's regular health check-ups about the importance of reading aloud and are given appropriate books to share by their doctor, nurse or other medical professional. A special emphasis is given to children growing up in low-income communities. The programme is further supported by the combined 350,000 hours of service donated annually by community volunteers.
Research shows that families served by Reach Out and Read share books more often, and their children enter kindergarten with larger vocabularies, stronger language skills and a six-month developmental edge. The programme takes place in more than 4,500 hospitals and health centres in all 50 states, and serves 3.9 million children and families annually.
British Virgin Islands: Books for Babies,
Begun in 2000, and re-established in 2009, the British Virgin Islands Reading Council’s Books for Babies programme aims to make parents aware of the importance of books and reading, and to encourage them to form the habit of reading to their children at an early age. This will create in them the love of reading which will help them develop into readers for life.
Every year, mothers of around 75% of the 350 babies born each year at Peebles Hospital receive packets of books to share.
The programme is funded by donations from private individuals, firms and banks and co-sponsored by the social development department of the British Virgin Islands government.
Colombia: Leer en Familia
Inspired by Bookstart in the UK, Colombia's Leer en Familia (family reading) programme was established in 2003 to encourage parents to give their children a love of books and reading.
Run by reading charity Fundalectura, the programme sells packs of books to health organisations and libraries, which in turn deliver to families free of charge.
Gifted just after birth or at eight months old, around 35,000 babies – mostly from low-income families – receive packs every year. The programme has forged important partnerships with partners in health and libraries, mostly from the private sector.
The secretary of social integration in Colombia has funded the programme to give packs of books to five community centres in Bogotá, the nation's capital. There has also been important work with expecting mothers, especially vulnerable teenagers, and library facilities have been provided for children who don't attend nurseries or daycare centres.
Leer en Familia continues to raise awareness of the importance of sharing stories with children, and aims ultimately to gift book packs to every family in Colombia.
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Falkland Islands: Bookstart
Bookstart in the Falkland Islands gifts packs of books to babies at their 8-month and two-year check-ups.
A local company pays for the Bookstart packs and sponsors the scheme, and the government pays for the packs to be shipped to the Falklands Islands.
A book redistribution service has also been set up to offer families access to books in all waiting rooms and nurseries, and there are plans to extend the scheme further throughout the islands.
Jamaica: Bookstart Ja
Since launching in January 2011, Bookstart in Jamaica has been operating a pilot programme that aims to gift packs of books to 7,000 babies at their 6-week health check up. The programme expanded in 2012 to reach over 40,000 babies – around 85% of all the children born in Jamaica each year.
Run in partnership with the Jamaica library service, the programme aims to:
- support family literacy
- encourage reading from infancy that gives children a flying start when they start school
- encourage a lifelong love of books.
Bookstart Jamaica is funded by the government, and aims to develop matching funds from public-private partnerships.
Capel, Australia: Bookstart
This scheme gifts books to babies in the Greater Bunbury region in Western Australia. Books are gifted to babies when they are 7–9-months-old at information sessions at local libraries by a librarian, child health nurse and a speech pathologist. There are also plans for books to be gifted at the 6-month check-up by the child health nurse.
New South Wales, Australia: Great Lakes
This programme has been gifting book packs to babies throughout the Great Lakes region of New South Wales since August 2006.
Great Lakes Bookstart was initially funded by Friends of the Great Lakes Library Service (FOGLLS) but is now solely funded by the Forster Bowling Club. The packs are distributed by the health visitors during their ‘in-home' consultation with parents shortly after birth their child.
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Perth, Australia: Better Beginnings Family Literature Programme
Since 2004, Better Beginnings has given over 50,000 books and reading kits for Western Australian families with babies under 12 months.
Working in partnership with 115 local governments, the programme builds on the knowledge that early intervention, parent involvement and support communities play a critical role in the growth and development of young children.
Each reading kit includes a quality children's book, a growth chart featuring favourite nursery rhymes, a list of best books and some guidance materials to encourage reading at home. This toolkit is gifted to every baby born in participating areas in Perth through the community health centres at the baby's six-week health check. Parents are also invited to a free rhyme and story session at the public library.
There are plans for Better Beginnings to expand throughout Western Australia, to encourage lifelong literacy links, connect with families and change young lives.
Queensland, Australia: Butterfly Wings Child Parent Programs
Launched in 2004, the Butterfly Wings Child Parent Programs (BWCPP) are early intervention and early literacy programmes that offer free, interactive story sessions for families.
Aiming to give a love of oral storytelling, the programme arranges for eight or more story sessions to be gifted each year to children from birth.
Run by volunteers, the programme is available throughout much of Queensland, as well as in Adelaide in South Australia, and has forged partnerships across libraries, childcare, schools, health, non-profits and other groups.
Butterfly Wings has seen more families visit their library, and has gained recognition from the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth and the Queensland government.
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New Zealand: Books for Babies
Books for Babies, based in Christchurch, New Zealand, gifts about 5,000 packs to parents and babies every year.
Packs are delivered through hospitals, midwives and the homebirth association, and contain books, tips for sharing stories, and information on joining the local library. In 2005 almost 400 babies joined the library as a result of getting a Books for Babies pack.
Books for Babies is funded by Christchurch City Libraries, and is delivered by library staff and volunteers, with the help of hospital staff and home birth midwives.
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