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Bookbug: love, community and a whole lot of books

Catriona Wallace, Head of Early Years at Scottish Book Trust, reflects on a decade of Bookbug and its lasting impact on families and communities.

Topics: Bookbug

Last updated: 25 November 2020

Hello everyone, hello everyone, glad that you could come.

Every Bookbug Session starts with a hello song – a signal that something exciting is about to begin, that we are happy you could join us and that you are an important part of our Bookbug community. When Bookbug started 10 years ago these thoughts were undoubtedly at the front of our minds. We wanted a book gifting programme that belonged to and was loved by Scotland’s families, a programme that valued children and brought together communities.

Looking back on a decade of Bookbug in Scotland, it’s easy to get swept away by the big numbers. Over 6 million books given to children is a staggering figure, but what that means in practice is that every child in Scotland, every single child will have at least 14 books of their own when they get to Primary 1. The commitment and investment in Bookbug from Scottish Government and Creative Scotland, along with the support from our partners in libraries, health, education, social care and the third sector has shown that we are a nation that values books, and more importantly that values children.

In more normal circumstances, it is common to see hoards of young families heading to the library to join a Bookbug Session. The number of free Bookbug Sessions that take place across the country has grown from 8,500 in 2010 to over 27,000 each year - nearly 500 opportunities every week for families to come together to sing, share stories and meet their friends. When we break this down to what really matters, each shared story and each round and round the garden with a tickly palm, equates to a moment of love between a child and an important adult in their lives.

Scottish Book Trust and our partners are privileged to work with the very newest members of our society. Brand new, sparkling minds, ready to connect, learn and experiencing the world for the first time. Given the recognised importance of the first three years of life for cognitive, social and emotional skills it is a critical opportunity to help families get the tools, ideas and confidence to give their child the best start in life, and we jump at that opportunity. Stories, songs and rhymes are about as simple as it gets but the benefits last a lifetime.

Sitting underneath this is the knowledge that this isn’t just a nice thing to do, or an extra. It’s a human right. Bookbug directly supports articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Children (UNCRC) by making books available to children and supporting their right to learn, relax and play.

Bookbug builds on the strengths of Scotland’s communities. The idiom it takes a village to raise a child rings true when we think of the network of different professionals who help us start children on their journey of books and reading. From the health visitor who arrives bearing the gift of books, to the Bookbug Session Leader who welcomes families to the library with open arms, Bookbug is about encouragement and showing that books are for everyone. It is with pride that we celebrate all Scotland’s languages  - English, Scots, Gaelic and BSL – within our programme and embrace other languages that bring richness to our culture.

From the start, we have recognised that it is not enough to make books available for free. Some families don’t find it easy to connect with their community, are suffering from isolation, or struggling with other significant stresses like poverty or lack of confidence. Perhaps now more than ever we understand the impact that being isolated can have, and that is why our targeted work to support families remains absolutely crucial. Bookbug for the Home has helped thousands of families to introduce stories, songs and rhymes into their lives to create moments of connection with a smile, a shared gaze, a cuddle, a word joined in, the wonder of turning a page, or hearing the voice of a loved adult sing for the first time.

When we were making plans for marking 10 years of Bookbug, no-one could have imagined what a different world we find ourselves in. The current situation has acted as a reminder of just how important communities are, and the pain felt when we can’t be together with our loved ones. Our hearts go out to families who are stuck inside, to all the babies being born into a world that feels a bit strange and a bit different, and new parents who have found themselves more isolated than expected. For now let us help you with stories, songs and rhymes, and we can’t wait to see you again at the library, familiar faces and maybe some for the first time, when this has passed.

Bookbug is a programme built on love and community... oh and a few million wonderful picture books too! Thank you for being part of our Bookbug community over the last decade.