Bookbug for All: Communication-Friendly Bookbug Sessions at Wishaw Library

Wishaw Library, North Lanarkshire, was recently part of a successful pilot of a ‘Communication-Friendly Bookbug’ group for children with additional support needs. Speech and Language Therapist, Joanne Gibson, explains more about the pilot and shares some feedback from the families involved:


In North Lanarkshire, our Bookbug steering group meets regularly and has representatives from many agencies. We agreed that one priority for this group would be to make Bookbug sessions more accessible for children with additional support needs. We found that many parents of children with communication difficulties would say that they did not feel confident in attending Bookbug sessions in the library. We also noticed that many families would not return to groups if they felt that their child was not participating in the same way as other children who were there.

Following a presentation at a Bookbug training event and further training for library staff with HOPE for Autism, I worked with Gillian Hunt from Culture NL Libraries to help set up Communication-Friendly Bookbug sessions. These would be piloted for six weeks and made available to all families who felt their children required additional support with their communication skills. Speech and Language Therapists and Health Visitors recommended the sessions to families in the local area, and they were also advertised in the library and on social media.

Bookbug session leaders
The sessions took place in a room in the library which was free from distractions and a safe and secure place for children. They were led by trained Bookbug leaders from the library (Denise and Jean from Wishaw Library, pictured right) alongside a Speech and Language Therapist. Numbers were limited to eight children aged 2- 4 years. A range of children attended, including children with autism, language delay and hearing impairment.

In the sessions we kept the routine and structure the same each week and used visual pictures (Boardmaker signs) and a visual timetable to help the children anticipate what songs and activities we were going to sing. We also used a range of sensory objects, including bubbles, sparkly Lycra, a glittery ball, and light up toys, as well as puppets to keep the children’s interest.

We were careful in considering appropriate stories for the children. We made sure that the language in the stories was simple and looked for stories that were not too long and had a repetitive story line that the children could join in with. It was also important for the book size to be large enough for all the group to see so they could engage with the story. (A useful tip is group size = book size i.e. the bigger the group, the bigger the book!) Lift-the-flap books or touchy-feely books worked well as the children enjoyed taking their turn and engaging with the book. Also, books with no words can work well as children can talk about what they see in the pictures.

Symbolised resources from CALL Scotland
We made sure that the stories were read at a slow pace with pauses for the children to contribute. We emphasised important words in the story and showed the children the signs for these words. Joanna Courtney from CALL Scotland also shared the symbolised resources (see image, left) they had created and adapted for children with additional support needs. 

Makaton signing was used alongside all the songs. As the weeks went on, parents and children began to join in with the signs and copy the actions.

We took feedback from parents and all parents were positive about the sessions:

 “I tried a larger Bookbug in the library but my child wouldn’t settle and I found it exhausting, but at this group I felt my child could be himself.”

 “Really enjoyed the sessions, smaller group in a closed room with less distractions. I learned some signs too.”

“I noticed my child attended better to activities as the weeks went on, I really saw him joining in and enjoying himself.”

Due to the positive feedback, the sessions are planned to continue in the library, with library staff and Speech and Language Therapists delivering the sessions together. We are also going to make a Boardmaker disc/resource available in the library so that families or staff can access this and print off any pictures or symbols that they need. Library staff have also expressed interest in attending Makaton signing training. The pilot showed excellent collaboration from a range of agencies - we would like to try this approach in other libraries in North Lanarkshire.

Joanne Gibson

Joanne Gibson is a Speech and Language Therapist for NHS Lanarkshire: North.