If you are going to do something to reduce differences in living conditions and health – read to your children! (Sir Michael Marmot epidemiologist and public health researcher at the conference Make Gothenburg Equal 2014)
The words of Sir Michael Marmot, summarize the vital importance of giving children a good start in life. That one of our most important tasks as a public library is to reach out and meet children and families. To give children a rich language, love for words, and to bring reading to life. It is especially important to prioritize and make a difference for vulnerable children and families as well as families with special needs. To create the conditions in society for all children to develop a language that is as good as possible according to their conditions, and which makes it possible to develop as individuals with the ability to actively participate in society.
Bookstart – more than just a book gift!
In Sweden, we have had a government initiative since 2016 ”The whole of Sweden reads with the children”, where Bookstart is an early and important contribution. Bookstart Sweden’s aim is to strengthen young children’s (0–3 years) language and reading development, Getting parents and professionals discover that reading, talking, singing, and playing are important parts of the child’s continued development. Strengthen parents but also the whole family in their significant role for the child’s reading and writing development. The bookstart teams therefore have a family-centered inclusive way of working, where the child and the family’s language and needs are important. The meeting with the child and the family and the shared reading experience produce effects and ”aha experiences”. This is how a book starter expresses the wow effect; “We visited a family the second time where the dad was home too. He said to us: when you first came I thought you were nuts, you can’t read books for a six-months-old child. Now we have fun, o my God we are reading books, I’m so glad you told me.”
Bookstart is public library-driven, but in close collaboration with child health care, preschool, family centers, speech therapy, open preschools and others meeting young children. Different professions, but all with a joint assignment on young children’s language development. It is important to work together on the assignment.
To bookstart is to dare!
”Bookstart has changed my way of being a librarian!” A quote from a conversation about the start-up role. Daring to leave one’s comfort zone. Meeting families based on their needs. Sharing reading experiences outside the safe world of the library. To inspire others who meet children to get ”the reading infection”. To give hope to families in need of support. To challenge and want to develop library activities. Gaining insights such as Library Manager Britt-Inger Roos in Strömsund; “You almost turn dizzy when you realize the visits really can make a difference to a person”
Short facts about Bok start Sweden:
2014–2017: Five pilots, inspired by Bookstart England and Denmark. All Bookstart pilots tested home visits, at 6, 12 and 18 months age of the children. Mainly in socioeconomically weak areas of cities. Region Västernorrland had asylum seekers / new arrivals as target group and Region Jämtland Härjedalen tested Bookstart in smaller municipalities and sparsely populated areas.
2017-2020: Government assignment. Bookstart is now in an exploratory phase. Home visits and various other methods are tested based on local and regional conditions and needs. During the period: 28 book launch projects and 30 networks. Libraries can apply for projects or language network grants from the Swedish Arts Council. We work actively to increase, and disseminate, knowledge of young children’s language and reading development through fact sheets, articles, films and knowledge packages (multilingualism, national minorities, children’s language development and reading). Materials are free to download at bokstart.se.
Most important of all is that we can all give children a good start in life – READ!
If you want to know more about Bookstart in Sweden, contact:
Anna Hällgren, administrator, Bookstart Sweden, Swedish Arts Council
Reading for small children, 4 films in 5 languages: English, Somali, Arabic, Persian and Swedish:
Children’s languages, fact sheets of different ages in 25 different languages. Free to download: https://www.bokstart.se/ombokstart/artiklar/2018/informationsmaterial/
That’s some difference – read!
Photos: Susanne Kronholm