Bookstart (United Kingdom)

Bookstart offers the gift of free books to all children at key stages before they start school. We provide parental guidance materials to inspire a love of reading in babies, toddlers and preschoolers as well as helping professionals to support families.

Bookstart is the world’s first national bookgifting programme – established in 1992 and run by the reading charity BookTrust.

Bookstart aims to promote and encourage families to share books, stories and rhymes as early as possible. It is based on the simple premise that children who have an early introduction to books and are read to every day, benefit educationally, culturally, socially and emotionally.

Book sharing encourages a curiosity about life and an eagerness to learn. The pleasure of reading a variety of books with children draws them towards literacy through the love of stories, songs and rhymes and encourages parents to see themselves as their baby’s most enduring teacher, with the potential to increase their child’s life chances. It also helps to develop a child’s innate ability as a lifelong learner.

A large body of research evidence highlights why reading with children from the earliest ages is of central importance to their development and future life chances.

The Bookstart programme itself has also been positively evaluated on a number of occasions, with a study by Margaret Hines and Greg Brooks in 2009 finding that:

‘Receiving the Bookstart pack seemed to have the most pronounced impact among those families who formerly did not often engage in shared reading with their baby or toddler. Bookstart seems to have reminded them of its importance and provided them with the resources to act on this knowledge.’ (Hines and Brooks, 2009, p.24)

How Bookstart works

Free Bookstart resources are provided to every local authority in England and Wales, who then work across public services to meet local needs. By working with key professionals who are trusted by parents and carers, we are able to ensure that high-quality messages are given about the benefits of sharing books, appropriate to the family and their needs.

Bookstart is usually coordinated and administrated by a Bookstart Coordinator in library services, working in partnership with health professionals and early years practitioners in settings including nurseries and children’s centres. Other professionals working with families who need the most support are also involved in targeted delivery of the programme, such as SEN (Special Educational Needs) or neonatal units.

Some local authorities administrate the Bookstart programme through their early years or education departments.

The programme is funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport via Arts Council England and the devolved government in Wales, with generous support from publishers.

The Bookstart programme is delivered through a multi-agency partnership:

  • Central funding (Arts Council England)
  • Other partners and supporters

The current level of support from the book trade has a retail value of over £5.6 million per annum. All other component parts are also purchased at low cost. This effectively means that every £1 of actual funding for Bookstart delivers approximately £4 worth of retail value. For example, £10 million equates to approximately £40 million value. This figure is further enhanced by the involvement of professional services in the delivery of the programme.

Bookstart has two universal packs, which every child will be gifted. Bookstart Baby is gifted from 0-12 months, predominantly through health visitors. Bookstart Treasure is gifted at 3-4 years of age, through a number of settings including nurseries.

Bookstart also has a number of additional needs resources. Bookshine for 0-5 year olds who are deaf, Booktouch for 0-5 year olds who are blind or partially sighted, Bookstart Star for 3-5 year olds who have disabilities that impact on or delay the development of their fine motor skills. We also have a dual language resource.

Bookstart in Wales

Through Bookstart, BookTrust Cymru makes sure that every child in Wales has their own books at home and supports families to read together regularly. Every child in Wales receives two special Bookstart packs which are given to families by health visitors.

Book Trust
G8 Battersea Studios
80 Silverthorne Road

t +44 (0)20 7801 8800

This project is run by Book Trust (United Kingdom)