The UK’s BookTrust Revitalizes Its ‘BookStart Baby Bag’ Program

In News by Porter Anderson

The British charity BookTrust refreshed its Bookstart Baby Bag program which donates new board books to families with babies.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

A Gift Bag for Each Newborn
In the United Kingdom, BookTrust refers to itself as its market’s largest children’s reading charity and has announced today (August 25) a “newly revitalized BookStart Baby Bag, designed to encourage families to start reading with their children as early as possible.”

The announcement stresses the point that the charity intends to give all children born in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland its starter set of children’s content.

The books and bags are distributed by health visitors, registrars, early years’ professionals, and libraries.

Families receive two engaging and age-appropriate books selected by an independent panel of experts, as well as finger puppets and an informational sheet that explains to families the benefits of sharing stories and rhymes with their babies. The tote bags and are funded by Arts Council England in England; the Welsh government; and the department of education in Northern Ireland.  

The organization is highlighting its inclusion of Space Baby: Zoom to the Moon (March 2019), illustrated by Kat Uno and published by Hachette Children’s Books’ Pat-a Cake series.

The board book has foiled shiny illustrative elements and “touch-and-feel patches” for children to experience. Hachette has a series of six “Space Baby” series board books with Uno’s illustrations, each with a special feature such as a “counting mirror” and “giant flaps.”

A second book featured in this new round of family distribution is Tummy Time (February 2021), a fold-out board book from the Kent-based publisher Mama Makes Books. This one features photos of babies and a mirror for soon-to-be selfie enthusiasts to get started gazing at themselves.

These selections, according to BookTrust’s media messaging, have been guided by the input of families who received BookStart content in past iterations of the program, the new round now being “designed to appeal to families from different backgrounds and circumstances, to inspire them to celebrate the joy of sharing stories with their babies as early as possible.”

A third book is used in a program in England called BookStart Treasure. That one works through nurseries, playgroups, and libraries to get content to 3- and 4-year-olds. Michelle Robinson’s 123 Do the Dinosaur (2019) with illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw from HarperCollins UK’s Farshore Books.

In this one, children are encouraged to “follow toddler Tom as he teaches you and all his friends exactly how to be a dinosaur.”

Robinson’s text rhymes in this book that was shortlisted for the BookTrust Storytime Prize.

Coleman: ‘Bonding Time’

Jill Coleman, director of childrens’ books at BookTrust is quoted in a prepared statement on the BookStart Bag news, saying, “Reading together with children can have profound benefits affecting their health, wellbeing, sleep, and social development.

Jill Coleman

“At BookTrust, we believe that all children should be able to reap these life-changing benefits and our new strategy is focused on finding innovative ways to ensure that children from disadvantaged families are not left behind.

“Sharing stories with babies in the first year is a crucial step on that journey.

“Babies will enjoy the bonding time that comes when families sit and read, share stories, or rhyme together and these latest books are expertly placed to support families to create an engaging, multisensory, and fun experience that we hope will kickstart a lifelong love of books and reading.” 

And at Mama Makes Cakes, founding publisher Penny Worms says, “As a new publisher, it’s fitting that our first book is for a newborn baby. Why not encourage a book-loving habit from birth?

Penny Worms

“We wondered what should a book for a newborn look like? It needed simple images with high-contrast colors to attract and hold their attention. A fold-out panorama of images gives them something to look at when doing tummy time or during a nappy change. We added photographs and a mirror to amuse them as they get older and there’s rhyming text, too, to encourage active shared reading.

“As parents and now grandparents of a large, blended family, we know reading is a special bonding time when you both relax, communicate and connect, one-to-one. Happy times. And that is what BookStart is all about.”  

Below is a promotional video about Tummy Time from Mama Makes Books.

More from Publishing Perspectives on book and publishing charities is here, more on children’s books is here, and more on the United Kingdom’s book market is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter

Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.