United Kingdom: Bookstart
Bookstart is a national programme that encourages all parents and care-givers to enjoy books with children from as early an age as possible. It provides free reading material to families to encourage them to enjoy books together. The Bookstart Baby Bag, which contains two books, is given to babies at their 8-12-month development check by health visitors. The Bookstart Treasure Chest is distributed to three-year-olds through children’s centres, nurseries, preschools and other settings for young children. Each year, around 3.3 million children–around 95% of all children in England, Wales and Northern Ireland–receive the packs. To be as inclusive as possible, Bookstart provides dual-language books and guidance materials. There are also packs available for deaf children (Bookshine) and blind and partially sighted children (Booktouch). The Bookstart Treasure Chest contains a £1 book token, accepted in most bookshops in the United Kingdom, that children can use to buy books.
Bookstart packs contain guidance material for parents that explains how children benefit from reading, or being read to, at different stages in their lives, and how to choose age-appropriate books for their children. The two Bookstart packs contain invitations to join local libraries and many libraries offer Bookstart-related programmes, which offers a way for involved parents to meet each other and share their experiences. In fact, while Bookstart encourages parents to read with their children, it also aims to create a community of readers that spans the generations.
Bookstart, which began in 1999 with initial funding from the private company, Sainsbury’s, is now funded by Booktrust, an independent charity. Around 25% of overall funding comes from the devolved administrations in Wales, the Department of Education in Northern Ireland and the Department for Education in England. A range of children's book publishers and booksellers supports the programme and, with its charity status, Bookstart can accept donations from the general public. Indirect support also comes from those who distribute the packs, including libraries, health professionals and early childhood professionals.