Bookbug for All: Supporting Families Affected by Imprisonment

Bookbug is committed to supporting children and families impacted by imprisonment. We are working closely with Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and third sector organisations to provide training, advice and resources to those working with families affected by imprisonment. These partnerships are helping to deliver key outcomes highlighted in the new SPS Family Strategy (launched in May 2017). This Prisoner’s Week, Ruby Ronaldson from Barnardo’s shares her experiences of using Bookbug at HMP Edinburgh.

 

Barnardo’s have been supporting the children’s bonding visits at HMP Edinburgh in partnership with the Family Contact Officers for just short of a year. Whilst we have been able to provide suitable activities for children of most ages, we realised that we were not delivering enough for babies. I attended Bookbug training in August and quickly set about arranging the first sessions in collaboration with the Family Contact Officers.

The Barnardo’s team in the visitors centre brought together mums of babies under the age of 1 year to trial a session. All six mums, dads and babies were keen, although there were noticeable nerves about public singing. Myself, Shona (soon to be a Bookbug Session Leader) and Karen (Family Contact Officer) set up the room with cushions, soft toys and baby books. The dads, mums and babies all joined us on the blankets of the visit room floor. None of the parents had attended a Bookbug session before, so we talked about the importance of bonding with babies, helping them to recognise your voice and building positive attachments and what this meant for their development. We got the group started with the ‘Hello’ song. Whilst there was initially some mumbling singing, there were lots of shared laughs. Dads picked up their babies and joined in singing songs such as ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. There was some great bonding eye contact and smiling moments between these dads and their babies.

One of the dads felt happy to lead on some of the songs to the group, and said he found himself often humming the songs after the groups

Fast forward 7 weeks and the group has continued to run with the support of Sharon the Family Contact Officer, who has also been trained as a Bookbug Session Leader. I recently revisited the group and was overwhelmed by the positive atmosphere. From a more nervous atmosphere before, there was now an enthusiasm from babies and parents.

Babies, all under 9 months, recognised the Bookbug mats and pillows to sit on and happily picked up musical instruments to play and sing to. The atmosphere was relaxed, with dads visibly more confident in singing and doing action songs with their babies. One of the dads felt happy to lead on some of the songs to the group, and said he found himself often humming the songs after the groups. Later on in the session this particular dad found himself doing the ‘line line, dot dot song’ on the floor and said that he had forgotten where he was for a second.

What has been most recognisable is the shared learning experience between the whole group

Mums have been given the Bookbug CDs and have said that their children enjoy recognising the songs in the car. What has been most recognisable is the shared learning experience between the whole group, the teaching of old and new songs, Scottish and English songs, and most importantly, shared fun.

We hope to continue to expand the group to older children, and the Family Contact Officers have begun to advertise the sessions in the prison halls. In the visitors centre we have been able to give out valuable reading resources to children who come through the centre and have started a Bookbug library where children can borrow books.

Ruby Ronaldson

Ruby Ronaldson is a Project Worker at HMP Edinburgh Prison Visitor Centre & Barnardo’s Early Intervention Service