Working together to promote Bookstart in a rural area.
Working in Partnership, Powys
Kay Thomas, Bookstart Coordinator, Powys Libraries
There are some 6,450 children under five in Powys (4.9% of the population. Figures taken from Powys mid-2008 population estimate), living across one of the most rural counties in Britain, stretching 120 miles from north to south.
Powys library service has 17 branch libraries and four mobile libraries, many of which are part-time and single-staffed, making it difficult to put on any rhymetimes or other events to promote Bookstart, so it is necessary to work with others in the under-fives field to make sure that the Bookstart messages are received loud and clear. Partnerships are definitely the key to success in Powys!
The main Bookstart partnership is between Powys Library Service and Powys teaching Local Health Board; the Bookstart Coordinator is the children’s librarian for the county. 2400 bilingual bookstart bags arrive at library HQ each year, where local library information is put in, and they are then distributed via the health service delivery system to all the Health Visitors in the child health clinics across Powys, for gifting to parents of young children. When gifting the packs, the Health Visitors put across the message about the importance of sharing stories, rhymes and songs with preschool children, and encourage families to join their local library.
Another key partner is Language and Play/Number and Play, with whom the library service works very closely to promote the Bookstart messages:
- Library staff attend LAP training sessions, to brief course providers on the benefits of book sharing, and to promote any Bookstart activities
- The library service compiles special packs which are distributed to leaders of LAP courses, for distribution to parents attending
- LAP staff are invited to join pre-school events organised by the library service
- Family Bookshare boxes – the library service has provided some book boxes for LAP, for loan to nurseries. The boxes contain both library and LAP information
- The LAP coordinator is a member of the Bookstart Steering Group in Powys
Many other agencies are involved with Bookstart for one-off events; for example, a teddy bear’s picnic in the grounds of Llandrindod library encompassed Bookstart, Language and Play, Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin, PreSchool Playgroups Association and Play Radnor in a fun morning for preschool children and their parents/carers. This event was attended by over 50 children. More recent events were to celebrate CBBC’s Green Balloon Club Week, and involved Bookstart/libraries, Language and Play, Montgomeryshire Toy Library and Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust working together on stories, rhymes and activities with a nature theme.
In such a huge county as Powys, working together is the only way to ensure that all out preschool children get a flying start in life, and grow up enjoying stories, rhymes and books.