#BookbugPrize in Renfrewshire: Gifting and Voting

Renfrewshire Libraries organise the distribution of the Bookbug Primary 1 Family Bags to all primary schools in Renfrewshire during Book Week Scotland and encourage voting in the Bookbug Picture Book Prize. The three books included in the bag form the shortlist for the prize, creating a great opportunity to promote reading and library membership to children and their families and form positive partnerships with local schools. In this blog, I will tell you what we did in 2016 to engage with schools and make it our most successful gifting programme yet!

Every Child a Library Member

We are very keen to develop the Every Child a Library Member offer in Renfrewshire to encourage all children and their families to join up and be active members of their local libraries. The Bookbug P1 gifting programme offers a great focus for this: as every child is receiving their bag from Scottish Book Trust, it makes sense to promote library membership at the same time. In the past, we have handed out membership forms for children to take home when they visit the library with their class, but quite often these get lost at the bottom of the school bag, so this time we thought we would try a different approach. 

For a big promotion such as this it really helps if you can make contact with a manager in your local authority with responsibility for primary schools. In our case, we are really fortunate to have the link with Julie Paterson, whose role is Development Officer for Literacy. Julie is leading a new training programme for schools on developing children as readers, and she loves libraries! 

We were offered a CLPL training session about the P1 bag in September for teachers and library staff by Scottish Book Trust which was very well attended. It was a great opportunity to speak to Primary 1 teachers directly and discuss how schools and libraries could work together. Following this, Julie and I sent out a joint email to all head teachers, providing them with details of their local library contact and explaining how they could arrange a visit for their Primary 1 class to the library or a visit to the school from the Skoobmobile, our children’s mobile library service. The majority of schools took up the offer, and for those who couldn’t manage a visit, we delivered the bags directly to the school. 

Over 500 children returned the form and received a new library card!

We also distributed membership forms to the schools for all the primary 1 pupils along with a letter to their parents telling them about the bag their child was going to receive and encouraging them to complete the form and return to the school. We asked the schools if the returned forms could be given to the library by the October holiday week to give staff time to process all the new memberships and have their new library cards ready for their library visit in November. Over 500 children returned the form and received a new library card!

Gifting Sessions 

You can gift the bags wherever and however you want. We had loads of great gifting sessions in libraries where children took part in a storytime and other activities related to the three books in the bag. The Skoobmobile also held gifting sessions at schools, including “play in the park” sessions where the children and their families had the stories read to them and then went off on a treasure trail round the park or playground. The engagement of families was much greater this year, with some schools inviting parents along to library visits, and others holding special events within the school. 

P1 Play in the Park

St James Primary in Renfrew invited James McGrath from Renfrew Library to a gifting event at the school, which included a presentation of the creative work the children had done in class related to the books, with the help of older pupils. James said that 'visiting St James Primary and reading to the children and their parents was pretty special, and seeing how excited the children were during the visits was also lovely to see.'

Amy Welsh, Primary 1 teacher said the event 'worked particularly well as this allowed our pupils and parents to see the close link between the school and library, thus making them more enthusiastic about visiting the local library. Our aim has been to promote reading and raise attainment in literacy. We hope that by building close relationships with our local library that we are making steps in the right direction to raise attainment amongst our learners.'

We also had a fantastic partnership with school librarian Christine Kerr at Gryffe High School, who brought S1-2 pupils to Bridge of Weir Library to meet Jacqui Gillaney, who helped them select appropriate books for younger children and learn about storytelling techniques. They observed a Bookbug session and then visited two primary schools to read to the Primary 1s and take part in gifting sessions. 

Bookbug Picture Book Prize

It is really important to us that as many children as possible vote in the Bookbug Picture Book Prize. Library staff checked with their schools that they had registered to vote, and reminded teachers on visits to send in their votes. Libraries also registered as voting centres so that they could send votes in on a school’s behalf in case they had lost the link. This really paid off with 1860 children in Renfrewshire voting this year, more than double the figure for the previous year, showing that most children had the opportunity to express their opinion and vote for their favourite book. I do feel that it is incumbent on everyone involved to do all we can to make sure every child has a chance to vote. By doing this we show that we place a value on the Bookbug Primary 1 gifting programme. We really don’t want to lose it, and after all, Scottish Book Trust makes sending in your votes easy peasy!

Keeping It Fun St Margaret's Primary

Our libraries had a lot of fun with the Bookbug bags and clearly a lot of schools did too. I have been really impressed with the enthusiasm shown by teachers and library staff in making this a special experience for children and families. The Family Bag is a fantastic gift to children at an age when they are just starting to develop a love of reading. We have to make sure that every child (and family) feels welcome in their library, a place where they can discover the best books, and can grow and develop as readers throughout childhood (and beyond). In Renfrewshire, we can’t wait to get started with Primary 1 Bag Gifting again this year and we are looking forward to welcoming lots of new faces to our libraries.


We are providing CLPL training sessions on how to use the Bookbug P1 Family Bag in 7 local authorities this year. Click here for details.

Andrew Givan

Andrew is Children and Families Development Co-ordinator and Bookbug Co-ordinator at Renfrewshire council.