BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, has today announced plans to pilot a new, national library experience called BookTrust Storytime. Developed in partnership with libraries, local authorities and families, and funded by Arts Council England, the project will support disadvantaged families with children in their early years to engage with their local public library and develop an ongoing reading habit.
Sharing stories is invaluable for children in their early years and creates lifelong positive impacts on health, wellbeing, creativity and education, yet children from disadvantaged backgrounds continue to face the biggest barriers to reading. A recent BookTrust survey of 1,000 families in poverty with a child under 5 across England, NI and Wales revealed that less than half (49%) of these families are registered with a public library.
In the wake of the COVID pandemic, BookTrust Storytime forms part of the charity’s new strategy, which is focused on finding the most effective ways of supporting the families who need more help beginning their reading journeys, so that more children can enjoy the transformative benefits of reading. The pilot also aligns with libraries’ aspirations to reconnect with their local communities after a year of closures, to kick-start visits as part of the ongoing recovery from the pandemic, and support more disadvantaged children.
‘At BookTrust we believe all children should reap the life changing benefits of reading, and our bold new strategy is focused on finding innovative ways to ensure children from disadvantaged families are not left behind.’Diana Gerald, CEO of BookTrust
Launching in Autumn 2021, the large-scale national pilot, created with the support of library partners including The Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL), Libraries Connected, The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and Youth Libraries Group (YLG), will bring together local authorities, libraries, authors and illustrators to test new ways of inspiring shared early years story experiences through local libraries.
The project has been developed in collaboration with librarians and families to ensure the design and content reflects their experiences and meets their needs, including breaking down any limiting preconceptions – such as libraries being solely a place for reading books quietly – as well as showcasing the broader opportunities available with clear signage and a welcoming, friendly environment.
‘Projects like BookTrust Storytime are vital because libraries are places of possibility with the power to change lives.’
Isobel Hunter, CEO, Libraries Connected
The BookTrust Storytime experience will offer a range of resources for librarians alongside activities for families that will bring the magic of reading to life, and to inspire sharing stories and visiting the local library to become a regular and long-lasting part of family life.
These experiences will also incorporate the existing BookTrust Storytime Prize, which celebrates the best early years children’s books. This year’s shortlist, announced today, will be integrated into the experience and used to encourage families to make repeat visits to the library to read the different books and engage in the different activities on offer.
The BookTrust Storytime Prize celebrates the very best books for sharing with babies and children under five and is run in association with the CILIP Youth Libraries Group. Selected by a panel of experts, the six titles on the shortlist for 2021 are:
- I Really, Really Need a Wee! by Karl Newson & Duncan Beedie (Little Tiger Press)
- Octopus Shocktopus! by Peter Bently & Steven Lenton (Nosy Crow)
- No! Said Rabbit by Marjoke Henrichs (Scallywag Press)
- The Whales on the Bus by Katrina Charman & Nick Sharratt (Bloomsbury Children’s)
- Lenny and Wilbur by Ken Wilson-Max (Alanna Max)
- Arlo The Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep by Catherine Rayner (Macmillan Children’s Books)
‘ Every library is a pathway to enjoyment, knowledge and understanding, and, to me, every librarian is a hero because they pass on what they love to children, making readers and writers of them, and bringing joy to their lives.’
Sir Michael Morpurgo, President of BookTrust
This a wonderful scheme raising the profile of both public libraries and the pleasure of sharing books with young children. To find out more about the Storytime initiative and the Storytime prize please visit the BookTrust website.