New Life Project, Cardiff

Promoting Bookstart in special New Life Project, Butetown, Cardiff

August 2008-June 2009
Margaret Holt
Bookstart Coordinator, Cardiff Libraries


An innovative project to promote Bookstart to young mothers aged 16-25 years in a deprived area of Cardiff, Butetown. Regular Bookstart rhyme/storytimes helped overcome barriers in learning songs, rhymes and sharing stories, helping the mothers to improve their own self-confidence and life skills.


The New Life Project is a lottery-funded project which began in January 2008 and will run until December 2012 operating in the Butetown area of Cardiff. The project aims to break the cycle of poverty and deprivation for young pregnant girls (16-19 years old) and young mothers (16-25 years old) by:

  • Giving the young women the chance to access new social networks, information and guidance to decrease feelings of isolation
  • Helping the women improve their self confidence through acquiring new life skills
  • Encouraging the women to have greater involvement in their local community

I was approached by the project leader responsible for the group of 16-25-year-old mums at the initial programme planning stage in June 2008 and felt it would be an extremely worthwhile project in which to promote Bookstart.The leader was new to the area but had received my details through Language and Play with whom Bookstart works very closely in Cardiff. I felt it would be a great opportunity to introduce the women to the love of booksharing, sharing rhymes and songs with their children, and encourage them to become life-long users of the library.


The initial meeting in June with the project leader allowed me to introduce myself and my role as Bookstart Co-ordinator - how I could contribute to the programme by promoting Bookstart to the mums, sharing songs and rhymes and helping to break down  barriers with the group. We agreed I would make regular afternoon visits to the mums aged 16-25 years in Strand 2 of the project.

In the morning the women attended workshops three days a week learning skills such as IT, DIY, Parent Nurturing, Fitness and Cookery. In the afternoon they attended more informal sessions with their children - in which Bookstart would play a vital role along with other agencies - Language and Play, and Rubicon Dance. I met with the  playworker, Kim, to talk through the nature of my visit (type of rhymetime session etc) to meet the needs of the women, some of whom had high social and emotional needs.


I visited some of the group initially in July and gave a 'taster session' to introduce myself and get to know them. I subsequently visited every three weeks and after some hesitations, gradually helped the mums to join in with songs, rhymes and stories.

With the encouragement and support of the playworker the mums began to look forward to sharing rhymes and songs particularly using musical instruments accompanied by my guitar. Over the weeks, the toddlers’ concentration improved and I was able to introduce some book-sharing, highlighting good picture books to use with their children. The mothers were thrilled to receive the Bookstart packs and I helped build up their knowledge of rhymes through sharing themed rhymes each visit and also leaving 'book bags' with library picture book collections.


Verbal feedback from each visit was gained from the Playworker who regularly asked the mums which parts of the programme they enjoyed. In my Bookstart report, the playworker commented:

'The sessions have been a huge success! The parents were a little sceptical initially but through the regular visits have learnt to overcome their embarrassment to enable them to enjoy participating in the singing sessions, sharing rhymes with their children and books.'

Comments gained from the mums at the sessions were very positive.One mum commented:

'Ever since Margaret gave me a book pack, I have shared a story at bedtime with my son.'

Some problems were encountered - numbers attending fluctuated because some mothers did not feel the need to attend the afternoon sessions after the regular morning workshops. The children were often tired after a busy morning in the centre’s crèche and some members of the group were coping with varied health and social issues. I tried to respond to the groups’ needs by making my programme varied and interactive and constant feedback from Kim, the playworker, helped ensure the visits were successful.


  • The core group of mums did benefit from my visits by learning new rhymes and songs and learning how to enjoy sharing books with their children
  • All joined their local library and two mums came along to a special summer Bookstart Bear Roadshow at the Central Library
  • Good communication with the playworker allowed me to deliver appropriate Bookstart sessions for the group
  • Currently arranging a new series of visits to the New Life Project involving a new group because after six months, groups move on to a supported period of volunteering in the community