Traditionally, we think of public libraries as being ‘inside’ places that provide a range of opportunities for parents and children to share stories together or join in with storytelling, author events or activities. Libraries provide access to the wide range of books that are needed to engage pre-schoolers in books and stories, to feed the often voracious appetite of developing readers and to provide resources to support young people’s learning. Sometimes, however, libraries take their services outside to their local community. In this guest post by Reader Development Officer – Young People and Families for Wokingham Borough Libraries, Elizabeth McDonald describes an annual event for National BookStart Week, which celebrates sharing stories together and is based in local country parks.
Wokingham Borough Libraries Rhymetime in the Park
The Dinton Pastures event is an ideal opportunity to get everyone together to promote reading, rhymes and words.
About the event
As part of National Bookstart Week, we held outdoor rhymetime sessions at our local country park, Dinton Pastures, with an information stand from partners, a gigantic storytelling chair for the Rumble in the Jungle storytime and lots of children and staff in fancy dress. Around 350 parents and 400 children attended the event last year. The Children’s Centre staff wore animal ears, someone dressed up in a safari suit and someone else even wore a giraffe costume. There were lots of jungle-themed story and rhyme sessions which were also run in our library branches. We are currently planning our event for this year, which will run on Monday June 13, 2016.
Promoting the reading message
National Bookstart Week is an annual celebration of Book Trust’s flagship reading programme, Bookstart. It aims to highlight the importance of getting in to the habit of reading every day – even if it’s just for ten minutes. Every year there are thousands of free events around the country for babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers and their families, at libraries, Children’s Centres, nurseries and bookshops. Events include stories, rhymes and lots of fun activities to inspire families to read together.
At the Dinton Pastures event library staff spoke to people informally in the story corner, Health Visitors distributed Bookstart Baby packs to people who hadn’t already received them, and there were information stands, ensuring that the message was reinforced by all the activities taking place.
Library generated events included a rhymetime which used traditional rhymes such as The Grand Old Duke of York and song sheets were provided to support this. There were books to look at as well as the storytime session for Rumble in the Jungle. We used the elephant and lion mask craft activities and cut out materials from the downloadable Bookstart resources. There were also play dough animals and biscuits to be decorated which were adapted to make it a suitable activity for outdoors. Goody bags for families to take home included Rumble in the Jungle booklets, cards, mask making, library information and Children’s Centre timetables and information from other partners.
Information was available from all the other partners including the health visiting team (focus on safety in the sun) and the early year’s team (speech and language). The main idea was that the event helped to start a dialogue and that parents could talk to anyone about anything they needed to know. Lots of families commented on how useful it was to talk to everyone in one place at the same time.
Working in Partnership
The benefits of all the partners working together were considerable. In terms of promoting and targeting the event, posters were sent out to libraries, Children’s Centres, community houses, nurseries and schools. We also advertised on Facebook and Twitter feeds and sent out a press release well in advance of the event. The Children’s Centre encouraged their targeted families to attend with them and ran a mini bus to the venue; Homestart volunteers also accompanied their families. The day was also promoted at all our library events prior to National Bookstart Week. Promotion by word of mouth proved to be particularly effective as well and we also met new families who just happened to be in the park.
Bringing the partners together resulted in our being able to offer the shared knowledge and expertise of the Early Years teams, Health Visiting teams, Children’s Centres, the Home Start branch and Community Wardens, as well as the Public Library Service. There was lots of cross organisation working – Children’s Centres and Health Visitors gifted the Bookstart Baby packs, for example, and the Early Years team gifted the Bookstart Treasure packs via the early years settings. The value of partnership working was not only seen in the organisation of the event, but also in the positive impact on families of having so many useful organisations in one place together.
Rhymetime at Dinton Pastures 2016
This year’s theme, Under the Sea, is based on A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea adapted by Jessica Law and illustrated by Jill McDonald, which will be given away to participating families. As well as the rhymetime sessions during the event on Monday June 13th, Wokingham Borough Libraries will be hosting an Author Corner with Cathy MaLennan, Suzanne Barton, Layn Marlow and Tina Stubbs who will be reading their books; and Chapter One, our local independent book shop, will be selling the authors’ books. Themed Bookstart storytimes and rhymetimes will also be taking place in Wokingham Borough Libraries throughout the week.
This fantastic project pays testimony to the power of community groups working together towards a common aim and provides a great model for how to spread the word about the importance of sharing books to a large audience. Holding an event like this in the open air can be great fun and totally inspiring and energising for all the families attending! For more information and news about this and future events keep an eye on Wokingham Borough Libraries’ social media:
The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups.