I have often said getting out and about and meeting people as the Children and Young People Portfolio Holder is a very important part of the role. This week I had the pleasure to meet and hangout with Bookstart Bear at the Truro Register Office. No it was not a marriage ceremony, but to celebrate the work of Bookstart in Cornwall.
The Bookstart programme is run by Booktrust, an independent national charity that encourages people of all ages and cultures to engage with books. This is done with support provided though a unique public/private partnership, that includes funding from the DfE, generous publisher support and the local authority to provide free Bookstart packs to babies and toddlers.
During the last ten years, Cornwall has delivered 100,000 Bookstart packs making the county in the top 5% nationally. This equates to 350,000 free books worth around £1.4m given to children to help inspire a love of reading. It doesn’t stop there either, as well as providing free books, Bookstart facilitates a range of fun activities through Bookstart Bear Club. This club is run in various community spaces with staff offering fun interactive activities including stories and rhymes.
All this is achieved by a trail blazing partnership and one of the first in the country for the Registration Service working with the Library Service and Children’s Service to gift the initial Bookstart pack when parents register the birth of their child. This has since 2010 resulted in 100% gifting of Bookstart packs.
During the celebration event I saw first hand the joy of children taking part in the activities with their parents, seeing Bookstart Bear and all getting a book and sticker. This is a great programme which costs a fraction to deliver in return for huge benefits. I was very impressed with books also being available in dual languages. This helps parents with English as an additional language (EAL) read to their child in both their native language and English.