Bookbug's Friends: Helping New and Less Confident Families Discover Bookbug
In May 2015, the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships was commissioned to conduct a two-year evaluation of the Bookbug programme. Overall, the evaluation found that families and professionals valued the Bookbug programme and regarded it as having positive impacts. It was acknowledged, however, that there are many families who are not accessing every element of the Bookbug programme. The reasons for this are varied, but for many, it is that they don't have the confidence to attend their local Bookbug Session.
We took steps to address this during our recent Bookbug Week celebrations. The theme for the week was Bookbug's Friends; we invited regular Bookbug attendees to bring a friend with them to a session, asked our session leaders to look out for new or less confident families and make them feel as welcome as possible and encouraged people to stay behind after the session to encourage new friendships.
One local authority that has gone a step further to provide additional support to shy or first-time families is North Lanarkshire. The Bookbug Mentoring Group is an initiative established by Cumbernauld YMCA that pairs new and less confident families with mentors who take them along to local Bookbug Sessions. According to Kathleen Paterson from Cumbernauld YMCA, the aim for these new families is to be able to take what they experience at Bookbug back to the home to 'develop and encourage their own children'.
Having mentors meant we always had a warm welcome on arrival
In partnership with Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire, a number of mums from the Cumbernauld YMCA pre-5 toddler group were given training to help support the new families that would be joining the group. Sessions began in January 2018 and numbers have been consistent each week. The initiative has applied for further funding to continue with the programme, and the following feedback from less confident parents will hopefully ensure that this valuable project is able to continue:
'The group supported me to sing, rhyme, talk and share books with my children during the [Bookbug] session and afterwards at home. Having mentors meant we always had a warm welcome on arrival and someone to talk to and share experiences with.'
'The benefit of the group for me was clear in how my children developed their confidence in singing, playing with others and learning to link actions to phrases or words.'
'We enjoyed coming to Bookbug. Having mentor mums and other mums to talk to was a great help.'
'Myself and my daughter love going to Bookbug. Kathleen and her team made us feel very welcome and we have had a great time joining in and learning new songs.'
Finding ways to ensure that Bookbug Sessions are accessible to everyone is a key area of focus for us going forward. If you have any thoughts on how we can make our Bookbug Sessions even more inclusive and welcoming to new or less confident families, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.