Promoting Bookstart in Butetown, Cardiff

1 July 2009
Jennifer Haywood, Early Years Library Co-ordinator,  Flying Start, Cardiff Libraries



A simple but effective method of being able to provide a parent with positive praise and straightforward tips to encourage reading to and with their child, with the results providing one of the best and most satisfying aspects of my job to date.


Flying Start is a national programme that aims to help give children the best start in life and improve their outcomes, both in preparation for school and long-term.

Flying start is funded by the Welsh Assembly Government and is for children from 0-3 years 11 months, who live in postcode-specific catchment areas of Primary Schools that are deemed as areas that would benefit from the intensive programmes.

The entitlement that all families in the local target areas can access is identified as:

  • Quality part-time childcare for two-year-olds. Such childcare may be individual or centre-based, and part-time or full-time depending on need
  • Health visiting. Health visitors and midwives, working within a multi disciplinary partnership approach are a core part of the Flying Start entitlement
  • Parenting programmes. Parenting support services based on both the universal and specific, individual needs of parents and their children
  • Basic Skills. Every family in a Flying Start area should have access to a Language and Play programme

I was invited by Patricia Jenkins, Senior Play Worker, to attend the fifth week of a six week Language and Play (LAP) course (Basic Skills Cymru) to discuss the importance of stories and Bookstart with the parents. Language and Play is a six week programme designed to support parents and carers and their babies/children aged 0-3. It focuses on communication, language and literacy all through the medium of play.

The aim of that day of the course is to encourage reading and bonding between the parent and child and foster a life long love of books. The course was being held in St Mary The Virgin Church Hall, Butetown, one of Wales most ethnically diverse and deprived areas. 


I achieve this aim by working in partnership with the LAP co-ordinator discussing exactly what they expect of me prior to attending the event. I have attended over 15 such events and have fantastic working relationships with all the LAP staff.  Usually, I would attend the full session and interact with the parents and babies and:

  • Read a story, modelling an engaging reading style
  • Discuss Bookstart and provide them with packs if they had not had one from a Health Visitor
  • Join both parent and child to the library
  • Sign post events at their local library



There were two mums attending the course on the day that I went. I had already met one of the mums (referred to as K from now on for anonymity reasons). I had long conversations with both of the mums on a casual level while we played with the children, discussing many diverse things such as the weather and housing worries.

Then I gently asked K if she had been to the library yet, as I had joined her and her son up to the library at a previous event. She said she hadn’t attended as she was worried about her child’s (20 months) lack of concentration and disruptive nature.  I assured her that he was young and that was normal and not to worry about that in a library especially at a Rhymetime session where young children tend to make lots of noise and run around. This seemed to reassure her and she said she might try. It was lovely as Pat was agreeing with all that I said and reassuring her in a nurturing and positive way.

All the time I was speaking to K her child was running over to a selection of children’s books on display and picking them up and bringing them back to K. I asked if she had read to him. Caution is always required as many parents in this area have literacy problems. She replied that she had tried but was frustrated as he ran off and she couldn’t finish a story. I reassured her again that this was indeed normal and gave her lots of tips, such as getting two books from the library one for him one for her, or giving him a quiet toy to hold while she turned the pages, and to stop when he had had enough, and to try reading with no other distractions in a quiet space and just to persevere. I suggested that she read the book to him that he was showing her and advised her to just continue reading quietly to herself if he ran off and see if he came back.

While she started to read to him I went off to chat to the other mum but observed the child sat on the mother’s knee for a good five minutes before he left her only to return forty seconds later for more. She was thrilled that she had finished the book and received lots of positive praise from Pat and myself. We both told her that it was great that he was so interested in books in the first place and that she was a great mum.


It was amazing to see my job condensed into an hour long session and to be able to model reading and provide advice which was instantly acted on and positive results achieved. I am grateful that K was honest about her feelings and receptive to input which I am sure was because of the nurturing she had received from Pat over the duration of the course.

I am happy to say that I have now seen K at two different library events and at a LAP Fun Day in Roath Park. She always comes over to say hello and they both appear pleased to be there and to be enjoying themselves.