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Australian Bookstart: a national issue, a compelling case. A report to the nation by Friends of Libraries Australia (FOLA).

Bookstart, Born to read, Books for babies, Read with me or Let's read programs generally endeavour to ensure that all babies, through their parents or caregivers, receive a free kit containing at least one quality board book, information on the critical importance of developing the literacy of children by reading to them as babies, and information on public library membership and storytimes. A 2004 survey of Australian public libraries showed that a number of libraries were involved in forms of Bookstart programs, and that many others wished to provide Bookstart. Lack of funding and staff time, were the major constraints on them doing so. From research and British, US and other international experience, a nationally inclusive, systematic and evaluated Australian Bookstart program provided through public libraries in association with early childhood health agencies, would provide an outstanding national literacy development return for a low overall investment of $2 million pa. Such a program will require leadership from the Australian government and cooperation between it, state/territory, and local governments


Read in order to live Gustave Flaubert

In 1920 H G Wells observed that 'Human history becomes more and more a ,race between education and catastrophe. In that race

* fundamental to education, lifelong learning and the sustenance of democratic institutions in the knowledge age is information literacy--recognition of the need for information and the capacity to identify, access, evaluate, synthesise and apply the needed information

* fundamental to the development of an information literate and questioning citizenry remains the capacity to read well

* fundamental to the development of the capacity to read well is for its development to commence as early as possible, and well before formal schooling commences.

Yet member countries of the OECD still have up to half of their adult populations not reading at the level of literacy required for everyday life in an increasingly information-intensive world. In Australia 44 per cent of adults are deficient in their literacy and numeracy. Even more lack information literacy, a natural extension of literacy as the 'umbrella' or 'functional' literacy of the 21 st century. (1)

As the Australian Library and Information Association's Statement on libraries and literacy states (
 Rapid social change, the emphasis on lifelong education,
 the increasing rate of technological development and the
 movement towards an information based society are
 factors which suggest, as never before, that literacy is an
 essential instrument for effective participation in society.

 The illiterate person can be substantially disadvantaged.
 It is essential to democratic processes of government that
 citizens have the skills and opportunities to inform
 themselves on matters of community and national interest
 and participate in the decision making process.

 The scope for access to information resources is growing
 and will be increased enormously as communications
 technology becomes more sophisticated. Nevertheless,
 the communications media of the foreseeable future will
 continue to assume the user's capacity to read and
 understand the written word.

Illiteracy thus comes at great cost to the life and potential of the individual. It also comes at great cost to the community in terms, for example, of occupational health and safety, societal dysfuntionality and crime at all levels, particularly that committed by young males. A forceful reminder of this and of the high cost of illiteracy, is that typically 60 per cent of prisoners are illiterate or have marginal literacy. Addressing it as an adult issue in a coordinated and well resourced way must be a priority for Australia. It must also continue to be a priority in school education.

However, as Geraldine Casterton, president of the Australian Council for Adult Literacy observed in 2001
 2001 marks the 10th anniversary of the release of
 Australia's language and literacy policy ... at the time of
 the release Australia was thought to be at the vanguard of
 adult literacy policy and provision internationally. Now,
 ten years down the track, we are falling behind ...
 with a dying commitment from federal and state
 governments resulting in poorly coordinated action,
 fragmented, under resourced provision and lack of
 appropriate accountability measures. (2)

Beginning with Bookstart *

It has been fairly stated that literacy development is the most important social justice issue in education. However, the continuing need to address illiteracy as an adult issue indicates earlier failure by parents, formal education, public libraries and other community educational agencies.

It is now recognised that children need to be introduced to books and reading at the earliest age possible, well before their school years. Dorothy Butler, the New Zealand educator, emphasised this 25 years ago in her seminal text Babies need books. (3)

This is because children learn more in their first five years than at any other time in their lives, with the first two years being an extremely important time for language development. Numerous studies have shown that children who are read to from an early age learn more sounds, develop listening skills, extend their vocabularies, imaginations and understandings of concepts, and learn to read by themselves more easily. Their parents or caregivers, however, may need sensitive and nonstigmatising awareness raising, encouragement and support in providing this critical early learning experience for their babies and children.

Numerous researchers and writers after Butler have reinforced her message. For example, in Read me a story: parents, teachers and children as partners in literacy learning Julie Spreadbury reviews the post 1952 research, including her own Brisbane study, on the importance of the family to children's literacy learning. She notes that a 1980s longitudinal study found that
 Reading ability at age seven was found to be
 strongly predicted by knowledge of literacy on
 entry to school and this in turn was predicted by
 parents' interest in literacy and the quality of the parent
 verbal interaction with the child in the years before
 school. By the time the child began school she or he was
 knowledgeable about books and reading and this became
 predictive of later success in reading. Parents and the
 home environment were thus directly responsible for the
 child's concept of literacy.
 The parent effect found to be the most crucial was active
 encouragement of literacy activities (such as bedtime
 story reading) and the provision of reading and writing
 activities in the home. (4)

Gloria Rolton in Read to me, published by the Australian Council for Educational Research in 2001, observes that
 Children who live in homes where reading is valued,
 where they have been surrounded by books, handled
 books visited libraries and enjoyed listening to stories
 have a great advantage when they begin school. They
 have already gained many of the skills for learning to
 read. And they have learnt these skills while having fun.
 These children see reading as something that is a normal
 activity to be enjoyed, not a difficult 'school-only'
 activity. They assume that they will learn to read because
 every one at home does. (5)

Rolton focuses on the importance of the selection of high quality books for reading to children, to which further reference is made in this report because some well meaning Bookstart programs have relied on cheap or donated books of very poor quality.

South Australian writer, educator and literacy consultant, Mem Fox, is the leading current Australian advocate of reading to babies as the vital starting point of family literacy programs. She has asserted
 Reading aloud is the most important tool in literacy
 education ... if every parent--and every adult caring for a
 child--read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the
 children in their lives, we could probably wipe out
 illiteracy within one generation. (6)

The world of education and literacy development has witnessed many passing fads and claimed panaceas over the years. Fox's assertion, and those of other advocates, may be judged thus by the sceptic. However, from the US, UK and Western Australia, there is unequivocal evidence of its essential truth.

The US evidence is in the report of the Early Literacy Project (7) which evaluated the results of early literacy programs involving 30,000 children and 14 libraries. This study answered two questions, the support of public libraries for parent and caregiver education for early literacy and 'when parent and caregivers of low income children take part in early literacy programs designed by the ... Early Literacy initiative, do they understand and use the best practices they learn?'
 It was found that the project 'resulted in substantial
 changes in knowledge, skills and behaviour for
 parents, caregivers, libraries and the communities
 they serve ... parents of every age, educational
 background, income level and ethnicity
 significantly increased their literacy behaviour.

Reinforcing the point, American libraries 11 February 2002 carried the following item
 A Chicago Public Library program to expand the
 number of books and other materials available to
 readers younger than age 9 was announced
 February 7 by Mayor Richard Daley. 'The object is
 to get children excited about reading before they
 are old enough to read', Daley said at a news
 conference held at the library's new Austin-Irving

 The Get wild about reading program, designed to
 get children 'behind a book instead of in front of
 the television' as they mayor put it, arose from an
 April 2001 reading roundtable of university
 professors and school administrators Daley
 assembled to find ways to improve reading scores
 in Chicago public schools, according to the
 February 8 Chicago tribune. 'We heard loudly and
 clearly that starting at birth was the only way we
 were going to get children reading and excited
 about reading', Library Commissioner Mary
 Dempsey said.

The US Born to read project sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children of the American Library Association has, since the mid 1990s, prompted numerous local projects based on the success at five demonstration sites involving public libraries and health care providers. (8)

The evidence from the UK is the outstanding success, and real return on modest investment by the British government, charities and a major commercial sponsor (Sainsbury, the supermarket chain), of its world leading and comprehensive Bookstart scheme. This commenced in 1992 in Birmingham when 300 inner city lower socioeconomic families received free books for 7-8 month old babies, and advice on book sharing from health visitors.

The UK Bookstart scheme

The following information is from the Bookstart partnership report June 2003 (9)
 What is Bookstart? Bookstart is a national program that
 works through locally based organisations to give a free
 pack with books to babies and guidance materials for
 parents and carers. It aims to promote a lifelong love of
 books and is based on the principle that every child in the
 UK should enjoy and benefit from books from as early an
 age as possible.

 How does it work? The program is based on partnership.
 It is coordinated nationally by the independent,
 educational charity Booktrust. Schemes throughout the
 UK order materials through Booktrust and distribute
 packs locally. Schemes are usually coordinated by the
 library service, but sometimes through education or
 health services, who place local library information and
 an invitation to join the library in the pack. Packs are
 usually delivered to families at babies' 7-9 month health
 check with their health visitor.

 Partnership is the vital ingredient and it is a unique
 triumph of the program that it has facilitated numerous
 new links between organisations within the early years
 sector. 90% of library authorities said that Bookstart has
 enabled them to develop new partnerships (The Library
 Association, Early Years Survey 2001)

 How is it funded? National level funding for English
 schemes currently comes via an annual grant of 500,000 [pounds
 sterling] from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport
 (DCMS). The devolved nations (Northern Ireland,
 Scotland and Wales) have central funding via their
 respective governments. A number of other charities and
 organisations have also contributed to Bookstart over the
 last few years.

 In addition to this, Booktrust has negotiated partnerships
 with a number of children's book publishers who provide
 books at a greatly reduced rate, at cost or for free. All of
 this reduces the cost of the Bookstart pack from what
 would be a retail price of 14 [pounds sterling] to only 2.50
 [pounds sterling].

 Schemes in England pay for these reduced cost packs
 through local funding. Schemes have received funding
 primarily from the library service, Early Years
 Development and Childcare Partnerships (EYDCPs),
 Sure Start and health authorities.

 Who else is involved? In addition to over 4,000 libraries,
 12,000 health visitors, government sponsors and over 14
 publishers involved in Bookstart, Booktrust consults with
 numerous organisations such as the DCMS, Department
 for Education and Skills (DfES), the Basic Skills Agency,
 the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors
 Association (CPHVA) and the Chartered Institute of
 Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). There is
 also a Library Working Group, Health Professionals
 Working Group and multi-agency steering committee
 providing guidance to the national program.

 Who gets Bookstart? Booktrust aims that every baby in
 the UK will get a Bookstart pack. It is estimated that the
 program reaches 90% of babies in the UK, as a few areas
 do not have a functioning scheme at present.
 Booktrust's Schemes Liaison Officer offers support
 to these areas to help facilitate Bookstart there. Any
 baby that has not received a pack at their 7-9 month
 health check is eligible for a free mini pack from

 Bookstart is for every baby--that is its appeal. But
 many schemes find that it is an especially useful
 tool to reach out to socially excluded groups. And
 because it is for everyone, it is non-stigmatising.
 Bookstart began in 1992 with 300 babies. In 2000,
 there were 650,000. Since 2001 there have been
 1,170,061 Bookstart babies.

 Does it make a difference? YES it does!
 Bookstart children do better in school. Research by
 Wade and Moore (1998) showed that children who
 had Bookstart were clearly ahead in both literacy
 and numeracy upon entering school. Further
 research (2000) showed that this head start was
 maintained through Key Stage 1 as Bookstart
 children did significantly better than their
 counterparts in both teacher assessment and test

 Research by the University of Surrey Roehampton
 has also shown that Bookstart families have better
 book sharing skills and ways of extending reading
 as an activity. They read more with babies and
 young children, are more likely to join the library,
 are more confident with regard to reading to
 children and are more aware of the role reading can
 play in speech/language development.

The Bookstart report includes details of the seven critical elements of a Bookstart scheme, and notes that international interest in Bookstart is growing. It has been adopted in Japan where, with 98 per cent of the population literate, its main benefit is seen as promoting family bonding and parenting skills. The report also notes that two Australian schemes have affiliated with Bookstart, and another has expressed interest. A significant extension of UK Bookstart is Booktouch, a program which aims to get blind and partially sighted babies and toddlers 'bookstarted'. (10) Funding has also been received recently to distribute two more kits, one for 2-3 year olds and another for 4 year olds.

Bookstart research

An important aspect of UK Bookstart as an early intervention strategy to develop the foundation of literacy has been the investment in quantitative and qualitative evaluation, against a background of largely only quantitative research in the area. This approach by the researchers, Maggie Moore and Barrie Wade, involved obtaining qualitative data in interviews with librarians, health visitors, nursery nurses and the project coordinator--the lay professionals working with families in the local authority.

They concluded that
 Interviews with these Bookstart professionals are all
 overwhelmingly positive about the value of giving books
 to babies and their role in the process. None of the
 participants interviewed had negative opinions.

 Interviews with library staff demonstrate their firm
 commitment to the role that book sharing has to play in
 children's early development. The librarians who run the
 Cradle Club are committed to supporting parents in book
 sharing and providing the necessary environment in
 which this can occur. Other benefits are the social
 interactions and learning opportunities that parents and
 children are able to enjoy.

 It is evident that the role of health visitors is crucial in
 introducing and explaining the pack. They have seen an
 increase in the enthusiasm of parents for books as well as
 a development in parents' abilities and skills in sharing
 books with their children. In fact, the Bookstart project is
 seen as a facilitating factor in the work that health visitors
 are engaged in.

 Nursery nurses comment on how Bookstart benefits not
 only children, but also other members of the family. They
 are able to use their professional skills to develop the
 literacy beginnings made by Bookstart and to use the
 project as a model to help and engage those children from
 families who had not benefited from the project.

 The project coordinator emphasises that Bookstart is
 essentially a simple and effective idea, but one that works
 in all situations. Nonetheless, efforts have still to be made
 to involve and engage hard to reach families. All
 professionals recognise that, despite all the benefits it
 offers, Bookstart cannot be a panacea for all aspects of
 poor parenting; nonetheless, it is seen as an important

 These qualitative evaluations have shown that Bookstart
 is successful in that it has generated positive attitudes to,
 and an interest in, books and book sharing in a wide
 range of families. The results suggest that some 'fringe'
 parents may need special injections of support included
 with their book gifts. This has implications for already
 very busy health visitors. However, these professionals
 express their willingness to make contact with hard to
 reach families and see Bookstart as a mainstream aspect
 of their most important work. The evaluations also point
 to the necessity of greater awareness of the needs of
 parents whose first language is not English. (11)

The only Australian independently researched evaluation of something like a Bookstart program is an outcome of the Better beginnings program, part of the WA government's early years strategy which aims to improve literacy outcome for young children in lower socioeconomic circumstances.

Undertaken by researchers at Edith Cowan University, preliminary findings were reported at the CECDE conference in Eire in July 2004. (12)

Bookstart in Australia and New Zealand

It appears that at least several New Zealand public libraries, such as Wellington, already provide a form of Bookstart. In July 2004 New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark officiated at the launch of the Dymock's Literacy Foundation in New Zealand, at which the first of the foundation's projects--Books for NZ babies--was announced. Patrons of the foundation include NZ children's writer Margaret Mahy, and bestselling Australian author Bryce Courtenay. Australia has no commitment yet to a national approach.

The first sustained large Australian Bookstart initiative appears to have been by the City of Moreland Libraries in metropolitan Melbourne. However, from the survey responses, the earliest continuing program has been provided since 1990 by the Cummins School Community Library on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. This joint use public-school library serves a total population of about 5,000 people in a rural area which has a reputation for self starting innovation and achievement. Another joint use public school library in rural South Australia, Quorn, appears to supply one of the best Bookstart kits in Australia, which includes a copy of Mem Fox's Reading magic.

The Moreland Bookstart was launched in August 2000. In a journal article published in 2002, Genimaree Panozzo, the Community Relations Librarian for Moreland, notes that its scheme
 ... is modelled on the UK scheme of the same name
 which is coordinated by the Book Trust and aimed
 at encouraging parents and carers to read to babies.
 The Bookstart kit is distributed to every newborn
 Moreland baby through the maternal and child
 health nurses. The kit, complete with calico library
 bag, features a board book and advice on
 developing children's reading skills from an early age as
 well as information on parenting resources. Where
 possible, a bilingual board book is provided for LOTE
 speakers. The library's booklet contained in the
 kit--Reading is forever: how to develop your child's
 reading skills and have fun together--is also available
 free to all Moreland residents, schools and centres.

 The Bookstart kit has been overwhelmingly successful
 and has been the source for the most accolades regarding
 the Moreland reading project. Results from a survey with
 300 respondents found that 35 per cent of parents began
 to read to their babies for the first time as a result of the
 kit while 60 per cent began reading to their babies more

 A number of other library services have implemented, or
 are planning to implement, similar Bookstart schemes
 and I hope that one day Australia may follow the UK lead
 and with sponsorship, establish a national rollout of this
 worthwhile project. The original 1992 recipients of the
 Bookstart kit in Birmingham are being tracked against a
 control group. Given that this research has revealed that
 Bookstart children are consistently performing better at
 school than the control group, including at mathematics,
 there seems no better project to give children a good start
 to education and life skills.

 The Moreland Library Service intends to become
 affiliated with the Book Trust's Bookstart program,
 thereby drawing on the Trust's considerable expertise and
 research. Our library service will also introduce 10-15
 minute rhyme time sessions for babies based on UK
 models which will reinforce the messages in the
 Bookstart kits. (13)

The 2003 edition of the Directory of Australian public libraries, (14) using information supplied by libraries in October 2002, recorded that only eight Australian local authorities were providing, or commencing, Bookstart programs through their public libraries. These were

It is likely that a few other local authorities were providing a form of Bookstart, but did not identify that they were doing so. It is also likely that variations on the Bookstart concept have been, and are being, attempted by various child support and state government agencies and community organisations such as Rotary and Lions but with no direct connection with the local public library system.

One such current initiative is the Royal Children's Hospital (Melbourne) Let's read program which involves the distribution of a limited number of age appropriate books to parents of young children in four local authorities on the eastern fringe of Melbourne. (15)

Extrapolating, however, from the populations served by those public libraries that did so identify, only about 4 per cent of Australian babies may have been receiving a form of Bookstart at the end of 2002. This compares with over 90 per cent of UK babies actually receiving Bookstart.

At a 2004 national committee meeting in Melbourne, Friends of Libraries Australia (Fola) discussed the Bookstart need in Australia. It endorsed a proposal that Fola undertake a mailed survey of public libraries sponsored by Auslib Press to identify Bookstart provision and barriers to its national adoption, with its outcomes to be made widely available as a stimulus for national consultation and action.

The survey

The one page survey was mailed in May 2004 to all Australian public library services, a total of 534 individual services with 1560 branches.

Responses were requested by 14 June 2004. No follow up was attempted of those libraries failing to respond, although a number of late responses from NSW and Queensland, in particular, were received following the wide dissemination of a draft report in September 2004.

The total responses were 149, or about 27 per cent of the public library services in Australia. This response rate was not unexpected, as a number of the 534 individual services are small rural single branch services with limited, or no, professional staff, particularly in Queensland and Western Australia.

Of the 149 libraries responding, 117 were not involved in a Bookstart program, and 32 were, or were commencing such involvement.

Twelve questions were asked of the survey recipients

1 Does your service provide a Bookstart/Books for Babies program? (usually a kit to parents of new or young babies containing board books, information on the importance of reading to babies, a library card and information on library storytimes)

2 If you do not, what are the reasons/barriers?

3 If you do, for how long?

4 What does it cost each year?

5 Who pays?

6 What is in the kits?

7 How do you identify recipients?

8 How do they receive the kit?

9 At what age do they receive the kit?

10 What percentage of new babies receive it?

11 Since you have provided kits has it made any difference to library membership/attendance at storytimes?

12 Comments/suggestions/issues?

Libraries not involved in a Bookstart program

Of the 117 negative responses, the overwhelming majority indicated that they would like to be involved in a Bookstart program but that lack of local authority support, and financial and staffing resources, precluded it.

Six responses indicated plans to establish a program subject to local authority or grant approval. Another 14, mostly small country libraries, indicated that they had not heard of Bookstart but wished to know more about the concept.

However many of these libraries, although not involved in a Bookstart program, provided considerable information on other ways they were attempting to support family literacy development despite limited resources, and lack of children's and young adult (YA) librarians to foster them.

Comments included

* We have a fantastic storytime for preschoolers---regular attendance of 35-40. However lack of staff is the main reason we do not offer Books for babies. Country library WA

* I have not been approached and I personally assumed that hospitals provide that service. Country library SA

* I would love to be able to provide this service but my library has no budget for it. Country library, Qld

* We do encourage baby membership through 'If you are born you can borrow' displays, pamphlets sent to day care centres, child health centres and playgroups etc. Metropolitan library WA

* We could probably do something in the short term but being able to maintain a program cost wise would be difficult. Large regional library Qld

* The hospital is also used by mothers from other council areas--we cannot service them all, although we would like to. Children learn preliteracy and literacy skills before school with their parents. All library employees would be happy to support a request to the federal government and other areas to encourage this funding. Large regional library Qld

* We are investigating opportunities to provide this with our Friends of the Library group.

Large regional library Vic

* We are waiting for the State Better beginnings program next year. Country library WA

* There should be no barriers--some things only need suggesting. Country library WA

* In my former life as a NZ librarian we did have a similar program and it was a very positive marketing tool. Country library WA

* We would like to be part of this program as we have a large under 8 population and being in a mining town, no extended family situation. Country library WA

* The WA State Library has started a Books for babies program which we are keeping a close eye on.

Metropolitan library WA

* We have been unable to fund an ongoing project

Country library Qld

* I talk at infant/welfare centres to new mums and highlight benefits of reading. Country library Vic

* It is a wonderful idea that deserves support ... but if it cannot be sustained it can become a burden, defeats the purpose and quality drops. Regional library Qld

* We conduct a Head Start program (early literacy K-grade3) and also Project G.O.A.L. (grade ones at the library). We would love to give Books for babies as well but financial considerations do not permit. With the support of Friends of Libraries Australia etc, maybe we can make it happen. Regional library Qld

* Community Services in our council gives out a kit under the Birth to kindergarten program, but we cannot afford to include library information in it--the scheme is very new. Country library NSW

* I moved to Australia from New Zealand in February 2004 and have been struck by the financial constraints on libraries such as ours, particularly compared to my previous well funded library where we had a heavy emphasis on services to students. I was surprised that was not the case here as we have low literacy levels.

Country library NSW

* We do not provide a program as such but I am a member of the Bega community group 'Birth to kindergarten'. We rely on sponsorship to fund the costs of books to give the new mums in the Bega hospital but we can't afford to give to new mums in the other hospital in the Shire. Along with the books we include the library brochure, a list of suggested reading for toddlers, storytime leaflet and library membership form. Country library NSW

* We costed something like this a couple of years ago (one book in a welcome pack with membership forms and library info etc)--total cost estimated at about 15 per cent of our book vote). When the idea was raised with the library committee (3 councils) it was considered too expensive, a small target group with the benefits not able to be measured. The most compelling argument against it was that ours is a district hospital with about 200 births per year. The mothers come from about 7 local government areas and our library is funded by only 3 of these councils. Because our town is also a 'service town' for a large rural district and out service already supported/s the surrounding councils who have smaller libraries with less hours/services, through a reciprocal borrowing agreement this would never be an option here unless it was supported by funding from a sponsor or the state or federal government. Country library NSW

* The major problem is the funding of the program. It would be possible to get one off funding but a program like this needs recurrent funding. However we decided that the issue of parents reading to their children was too important so we have set up a program which we fund ourselves, a practical lapsit session called Babytime and a parental training program. Metropolitan library NSW

* Upper Murray Regional Library is developing a program for mums and babies. We are working with one of our eight councils to develop the model. It has not yet been completely developed but will target mums who do not read to their children due to their own low literacy levels. Basically we will not provide books but will work with the mums in their environment and encourage them to develop the skills they need to feel comfortable in reading to their children. The long term aim is to have the mums use the library for their books and to provide them with a support network within their peers. Large regional library NSW/VIC

* ... it all has to start somewhere and Bookstart would be a very positive step. Having spoken with local speech therapists, preschools and school principals I know they share our concerns and are horrified at the low level of home reading. Regional library NSW

Building a literate nation: the key role of public libraries

Australian public libraries are unique public agencies. They have nearly 1600 access points freely accessible to 99 per cent of the population, and are used regularly by 60 per cent of Australians. They are also distinctive in endeavouring to meet the educational, informational, cultural and recreational needs of all people from 'cradle to grave'. No other public agency or educational provider has such a wide remit. They are the most trafficked public buildings in Australia and the most heavily used and valued community provision by local and state government.

They are very high achievers on funding which currently represents only 7c per Australian per day, or a national total of $550 million, about half the annual expenditure of just one large university.

Nonetheless, their current and potential contribution, in partnership with other agencies, to improving people's lives and developing social and educational capital is not always well understood by those agencies or by local, state or national governments. This point is made by Neil McClelland, the former director of the UK National Literacy Trust in a paper Building a literate nation: the key role of public libraries given at the Western Australian public libraries conference in March 2003. He stated that, over nine years as the Trust's director, he had become convinced of the need for public libraries to have fully integrated involvement in national policies and that
 ... libraries have a unique and potentially highly
 influential contribution to make to a number of other
 important social policy areas such as

 * early years

 * lifelong learning

 * social inclusion and economic and community

 ... we need libraries to play a central and influential
 role ... (16)

At the same conference Sue North, the consultant for WA public library services, in a paper Catching them in the cradle: family literacy programs stated
 The prosperity of today's society is drawn from its
 human capital. There is no doubt that as we progress
 through the twenty first century there are increasingly
 compelling reasons for governments to invest in
 resources that will instil in citizens an ability to
 acquire the knowledge and skills for lifelong learning.
 Good literacy skills are not only an essential
 foundation for performance in formal education but
 also a prerequisite for successful participation in all
 areas of adult life. In particular, children must receive
 the information literacy development they need to
 recognise their need for, and to handle, the variety and
 abundance of written information that they will
 encounter throughout their lives. The opportunities
 that children receive in their early years will impact
 substantially on their opportunities in later life.
 Providing these falls primarily to parents.
 Families today are raising children under very
 different social circumstances to previous generations.
 Because of this they often require more flexible
 combinations of formal and informal social support.
 Public libraries are ideally placed to extend the social
 investment that communities make in their young
 people. (17)

This is emphasised in the Newcastle Region Library's excellent leaflet Ten minutes a day which is included in several of the Bookstart kits provided by Australian public libraries.

Survey conclusions

In the assessment of how well the individual local governments, states and territories of Australia are responding to these issues, the survey indicates that a form of Bookstart is available, or will be soon, to 1.76 million Australians, 7 per cent of the population. About 7 per cent of Australian babies may thus now receive kits, compared with 4 per cent at the end of 2002. This is some, but inadequate, progress. Progress at the same rate means that it will take over 25 years before Bookstart is provided to all Australian parents and babies.

In addition, there appear to be some Bookstart type programs which are provided by infant health agencies, or as initiatives by community organisations, but without public library involvement or connection. This lack of connection is unfortunate, as the public library is the community's major resource for quality reading resources for children and storytelling, particularly for lower socioeconomic, culturally and linguistically diverse and isolated communities.

The survey responses also indicate the extent to which Australian public libraries are attempting to promote family literacy and reading in school age children, young adults and beyond. A national consultation on Australian Bookstart would inevitably raise the need for better support for those efforts but nothing should distract from a focus, as the first priority, on Bookstart provided to all Australian babies regardless of the socioeconomic and educational circumstances into which they have been born

* The Australian Capital Territory has the most inclusive large Australian Bookstart program, similar to the UK program. Babies and their parents and caregivers in the nation's capital are advantaged relative to those in most parts of Australia. The City of Moreland in Melbourne also provides a national exemplar.

* Tasmania's recently introduced statewide lending scheme Babies who read, succeed is a variant of the Bookstart program, which has been well accepted. Its limitation--like that provided by Mudgee and Wollongong libraries in NSW and Adelaide Hills in SA--is that it is primarily of benefit to babies whose parents who already access a public library, who are more likely to be aware of the importance of reading to babies, and to be confident readers themselves. It is unlikely to be getting to those parents and babies who have most need, the 'at risk' parents and babies which have been the primary rationale for overseas Bookstart programs.

* Western Australia has more individual libraries some quite small--providing Bookstart than any other state, with over 1000 parent toolkits given away in pilot programs. A reading gateway has also been established (http// Its Better beginnings family literacy program has potential to underpin a statewide Bookstart program, and as a template for a national approach. Importantly, it has a quantitative and qualitative evaluation component involving researchers from Edith Cowan University, using funding from that university's commendable industry collaboration scheme grants.

* The State Library of Queensland's innovation grants have permitted local pilots of Bookstart programs, but apparently no ongoing funding.

* NSW, NT, South Australia and Victoria as yet have no inclusive and coordinated approach to Bookstart. However South Australia has recently established a working group of public librarians to develop a proposal for a statewide program, which has been provided with $50,000 by the Libraries Board of SA to underpin the proposal. NSW has grant funded a few projects, as has Victoria under its Best start program ( which aims to improve the health, development, well-being and learning of all Victorian children 0-8 years.

A matter of quality

One of the issues raised by several respondents to the survey and to the draft report is the absolute importance of ensuring that Bookstart kits contain high quality books. Only one of the respondents, Quorn in South Australia, identified which books were being supplied for reading to babies (Mem Fox's Time for bed or Koala Lou)

One respondent commented that there are
 ... some gorgeous looking $6.99 board books for
 babies. They are ghastly--impossible to read aloud
 and appallingly written, without any sense of rhythm
 or beauty. Cheap books will not solve the literacy
 problem, they'll only exacerbate it.

Bookstart programs which rely on such books for cost reasons, or which rely on publisher donations when publishers have such small profit margins, are almost self defeating, particularly when Australia itself now publishes outstanding children's books. However, from anecdotal feedback it is the case that some well intentioned local Bookstart program-particularly those not collaborating with their local public library or state public library system--are providing very poor quality board books in their kits. Rolton's Read to me remains a useful resource for selection, as does Fox's following list of 20 suggested titles for children 0-4.

* Ahlbert, Allan Each peach pear plum

* Allen, Pamela Who sank the boat?

* Bemelmans, Ludwig Madeline

* Campbell, Rod Dear zoo

* Carle, Eric The very hungry caterpillar

* Dodd, Lynley Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy

* Eastman, PD Are you my mother?

* Hill, Eric Where's spot?

* Hutchins, Pat Rosie's walk

* Jennings, Paul Rascal the dragon

* Machin, Sue I went walking

* Martin Jr, Bill Brown bear, brown bear

* Perkins, Al Hand handfinger thumb

* Sendak, Maurice Where the wild things are

* Dr Seuss Dr Seuss's ABC

* Dr Seuss The foot book

* Dr Seuss Green eggs and ham

* Vaughan, Marcia K Wombat stew

* Waddell, Martin Owl babies

* Wagner, Jenny The bunyip of Berkeley's Creek

Potential partnerships

The achievement of a nationally comprehensive, inclusive, ongoing and evaluated Australian Bookstart faces the challenge of finding a way forward which involves all three tiers of Australian government, national, state/territory, and local, and possibly a national commercial sponsor. It is salutary that the UK Bookstart has surmounted not dissimilar difficulties during its 12 year development.

* national, because the education and literacy of the nation is identified internationally as Australian, not by its political parts

* national, because if an Australian citizen or resident is denied the most effective literacy development by a state or local jurisdiction as a child, it is ultimately the responsibility of the Australian government

* national, because illiteracy will ultimately be a significant cost to the individual and the whole of the Australian community given the mobility of the Australian population across state borders

* state or territory, because it is the states and territories of Australia which have immediate responsibility for welfare and the formal education of all children, Indigenous and non indigenous

* state or territory, because it is the states and territories of Australia which fund and support, in partnership with local government, those public libraries and health services without which a national implementation of Bookstart would be impossible

* local government, because it is close to the community and able to deliver targeted services

* local government, because generally it is the major funder and provider of local public libraries, as its most heavily used and valued community service.

Finding the way forward for a nationally equitable and inclusive Bookstart program is not a challenge to be underestimated, given that public library development in Australia itself is constrained by Australia's complex system of national, state and local government.

The realities are that Australian Bookstart requires the political interest and leadership of the national government, the policy framework of the state/territory governments, and the infrastructure and connections of local government.

How much would a national Bookstart program cost?

Based on the $25,000pa provided by the ACT Library Service, translated to the total Australian population of 20 million, the annual cost would be about $1.5 million. With allowance for administration, marketing and researched evaluation it is reasonable to conclude that a total cost of about $2 pa million would initially be needed. This is an extremely small national investment in view of the outstanding--from the 12 years of experience with UK Bookstart--return on investment.

This level of funding would need to be guaranteed for at least five years initially, to avoid the stop and start, potentially stigmatising partial coverage implementation, quality limitations and nonevaluation which has characterised local Bookstart initiatives in Australia.

Although the indicated funding is so small in national terms that it could be found by the federal government without difficulty, nonetheless there are opportunities for partnership between government and business. At least one of the large national supermarket chains is understood to have expressed interest in sponsoring a national program, but not individual state programs. A precedent for such a partnership exists in the form of the Nestle Write around Australia program. As North notes, this
 ... widely acknowledged as a model partnership
 between government and business, is fast approaching
 its tenth anniversary. Nestle Australia contributes
 around $1m each year to support visits by Australian
 authors to public libraries, prizes, travel and a media
 campaign associated with the program.
 Additionally this money pays for three librarians at the
 State Library of New South Wales to coordinate the
 program. At Nestle Australia--as well as in schools,
 government and in the community--there is wide
 recognition of the powerful role that the program plays
 in ensuring that children are provided with
 opportunities to develop their literacy skills during the
 critical years of primary school education, regardless
 of their economic circumstances or physical
 isolation. (18)

The Nestle Write around Australia program also provides a possible organisational precedent for Australian Bookstart, in its location within the infrastructure of a large state library, that of NSW. Location in a large library or a centralised state public library agency such as PLAIN in South Australia--for which tenders could be called---would arguably be preferable to its location within a government bureaucracy.

It may be contended that, given the various state/territory and local initiatives to promote the importance of books, and of parents and caregivers reading to children at an early age, Australian Bookstart is not really needed.

The counter to this is that it is clear that already those state/territory and local initiatives--commendable though they are--are generally noninclusive, patchy and subject to funding vagaries which will continue. From the survey response, there is considerable reinvention of thought and effort occurring around Australia, about which several of the respondents commented. Except in WA, there are also no mechanisms for formally evaluating them.

If the programs are not inclusive and nonstigmatising ie every baby in Australia receives a Bookstart kit by the age of seven months, they will not help address the cycle of parental low literacy and unawareness of the importance of reading to children. It is this which characterises the background of socially and educationally deprived children who may more readily develop as dysfunctional adults, at great cost to their own lives and to the Australian society which has neglected their potential.

The case is compelling--from published research over many years, from the UK Bookstart program and the US Born to read programs, the adoption of the former in Japan, and most recently its adoption in New Zealand and varying approaches in Australia that reading to babies and young children would unequivocally provide the best educational return on investment that Australia could make, and provide a base for a national literacy plan.

As leading British policy expert Dr Geoff Mulgan told a conference at the National Library of Australia 27 October 2004, education spending should be targeted at the home and governments must allocate more to 'early years, out of school activities and lifelong learning'.
 The social and economic payoffs on investment before
 the age of five are probably higher than anywhere else
 in the education system. However 'So many
 governments over so many years have ... carried on
 giving the vast bulk of the money to 19th century
 institutions--schools, universities and so on'. (19)

To avoid reinvention, poor quality kits, stop and start, noninclusive and nonevaluated approaches a national consultation towards a framework, action and investment in Australian Bookstart is required--and soon. The longer that it takes, the greater will be the ultimate cost to individuals, and for the nation in social dysfunctionality and remediation of adult illiteracy.

What form could a national Bookstart consultation take?

It is suggested that Public Libraries Australia (PLA) in association with the Council of Australian State Libraries (CASL) convene a one-two day national consultation in Canberra by mid 2005, with an action plan as its outcome. Invitees should include at least representatives of the

* Commonwealth Minister for Education, Science and Training

* Commonwealth Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts

* Commonwealth Minister for Health and Ageing

* Parliamentary Secretary, Children and Youth Affairs

* Relevant state/territory Ministers

* National reading and literacy associations

* National child health associations

* Australian Local Government Association

* Australian Library and Information Association

* Australian Booksellers' Association

* Friends of Libraries Australia

* Potential charitable/commercial sponsors

Australian Capital Territory 320,000
(affiliated with Bookstart UK)
Bega Valley NSW 30,000
Darwin NT 71,000
Gannawarra Vic 12,500
Geelong Regional Vic 234,000
Lithgow NSW 44,000
Merriden WA 3,650
Moreland Vic (affiliated with 138,000
Bookstart UK)

Total population served 853,150

Libraries involved in a Bookstart program


Name of library service ACT Public Library. Population served 320,000
Provided for 1 year and continuing
Cost pa $25,000 pa
Paid for The library, via budget line (not subsidised
 from elsewhere)
Kit contains Board book, storytime information, parent
 link guides, songs and activity book, library
 membership information and form
Recipients All new babies. Once joined library they have
 special Bookstart membership status
Supplied Via nurses or GP at 4 month immunisations/or
 if no immunisations then they can pick up
 from public library
Age 4 months
Percentage 100%
Comments Bookstart library members are sent
 newsletters three times a year to coincide
 with 'Rhyme time' sessions for parents and
 their babies/toddlers. Newsletters include
 recommended books for parents and toddlers.
 Website has introductory information about
 Bookstart and links to the UK program to
 which we are affiliated


Name of library service Camden. Population served 43,945
Provided for Launched in August 2004
Cost pa $11,000 approx
Paid for State Library of NSW grant $10,000 and Quota
 Club Camden $1,000
Kit contains 1 cloth bag, 1 board book, 1 bib, pamphlets
 and reading list, membership forms etc
Recipients Consult with baby clinic
Supplied Given out at the 6 week visit at the baby
Age Approx 6 weeks
Percentage We hope 80%
Comments This is a new service. We have consulted with
 our local area health service and have come
 to an arrangement where the kits will be
 given out at the main area baby clinic at the
 6 week visit

Name of library service Central West. Population served 75,719
Provided for Established in late 2002. Take time take ten
 (T4) is a community based organisation whose
 membership includes librarians, educators and
 health professionals. While it is not a
 specifically library project the public
 library is a key player and contact point
Cost pa Approx $1,900
Paid for T4 is funded by a number of community
 organisations including Rotary, Zonta and the
 Children's Book Council of Australia. Central
 West Branch; by grant funding from the Orange
 Cabonne Community Development Support
 Expenditure Scheme (CDSE); and by inkind
 support from Orange City Council and the NSW
 Department of Education and Training
Kit contains A book for the child, information about T4,
 guidelines on reading and a copy of Ten
 minutes a day produced by Newcastle Region
 Public library
Recipients Every child born at Orange Base Hospital. As
 the major hospital in the region many
 children born there are from surrounding
 towns and villages.
Supplied Delivered by hospital volunteers while still
 in the hospital
Age Birth
Percentage 95%
Comments T4 also conducts outreach programs. In May
 2004 we played host to children's writer and
 literacy expert Mem Fox. Two seminars were
 held during the day--one directed at parents
 and carers and the other at educators,
 librarians and children's services workers.
 There was also a 'meet the author' dinner and
 a book signing for the young and young at
 heart. The day was funded by the CDSE.
 Funding has also been received from the CDSE
 to run workshops with parents and carers to
 develop their storytelling skills.
 T4's patron is Murray Cook--the 'red' Wiggle,
 a former resident of Orange

Name of library service Cowra. Population served c8,000
Provided for 2.5 years
Cost pa Approx $500
Paid for Friends of Cowra Library
Kit contains A book, information on the importance of
 literacy development
Recipients Through the maternity staff at Cowra District
Supplied At various stages of pregnancy and after
Age Newborn
Percentage 100% (we hope)
Comments Thank you, you have spurred Friends of Cowra
 Library to reassess their kit. We will now
 include more Cowra Library information

Name of library service Grenfell. Population served 3,550
Provided for 2 months
Cost pa Anticipate c$100
Paid for Friends of Grenfell Library
Kit contains 1 book for baby, 3 leaflets on fostering
 literacy/numeracy, 2 library information
 flyers, invitation to twice-a-year new
 mothers library morning tea
Recipients Cannot be identified to the library for
 privacy reasons
Supplied Kits are given to early childhood nurses and
 they give one to each baby in the Shire on
 the first home visit
Percentage 100% target
Comments The Friends of the Library were planning the
 initiative anyway but are also supporting the
 WECARE (WEddin Community Are Readers
 Everyday) program, a shire wide initiative to
 promote literacy and the love of reading at
 all ages, which was launched in March 2004.
 The kits are funded from the Friends general
 funds, accumulated through raffles, pre loved
 book sales, catering efforts. Only the books
 actually cost money. The packs are done up in
 fancy paper with ribbon streamers and look
 very attractive

Name of library service Hurstville. Population served 132,000
Provided for Began the Joey Tales program since May 2004
Cost pa Joey Tales is held within the library in the
 children's section, which we can close off.
 There is no cost to the parent
Paid for Hurstville Library
Kit contains The program lasts for 20-30 minutes depending
 on the audience. We always begin and end with
 the same Joey Tales song and break up the
 time with active fingerplays, songs, simple
 stories, puppets, music, nursery rhymes etc.
 We encourage parent participation with their
 child. Each week has a theme and the content
 reflects that. At the end each parent is
 given a handout to take home with some of the
 songs/nursery rhymes/fingerplays, a list of
 good books for parents and recommended
 reading for the babies and my name and number
 should there be any questions. On the back is
 a simple craft, a recipe for playdough, how
 to choose an age related book etc. Books,
 toys audio visual and parenting books are
 then displayed and able to be borrowed. The
 audiovisual and parenting books are then
 displayed and able to be borrowed. The babies
 usually then play on the big toy equipment in
 the library whilst the parents chat
Recipients Anyone is welcome who has a baby/child 0-3
 years of age. Grandparents, carers, dads and
 expecting mums are most welcome. We advertise
 through the local playgroups and word of
Supplied Joey Tales is presented in the Children's
 Library. The baby sits in the parents lap and
 listen to stories and parents do fingerplays
 with them
Age 0-3 years
Comments The only problem raised by parents was other
 children eating or playing with toys that
 their child wants. We solved this by a simple
 set of rules and no eating or bringing in non
 essential toys was covered and respected by
 all parents. Also not having enough music
 (cassettes. CDs) for parents to teach their
 child, traditional songs, nursery rhymes etc.
 But after acquiring a grant of $2000 we
 purchased more audio and board books specific
 for this age. We also brought new puppets and
 story props to keep the babies attention. All
 parents are very keen for this program to
 continue, and come along weekly (they wish
 the program was longer)

Name of library service Kempsey. Population served 27,000
Provided for Approx 3 years
Paid for Done in conjunction with a Kempsey project
 called Sow the seeds to read and it
 administers it. We provide books, booklists,
 enrolment forms etc. They get the bags and
 put in the labour. Received a development
 grant in 2003 which included about $500 worth
 of little books to go into the bags
Kit contains A baby's book, a pamphlet extolling the
 virtues of reading, talking and singing to
 your child, a booklist on parenting, library
 enrolment form, a pamphlet about the Sow the
 seeds to read project, a list of other
 relevant resources in the Shire
Recipients Given to the hospital and the baby health
 care sister to hand out
Supplied As above
Age Birth
Percentage All babies born in Kempsey
Comments We have other programs, for older children,
 to encourage reading, so we hope that we will
 catch them one way or another

Name of library service Kiama. Population served c8,000
Provided for Approx 6 years
Cost pa a) in its present form (as listed below) the
 total cost of kits is between $3,000-$4,000
 per annum--costing depends upon number of
 kits produced which in turn depends on number
 of babies born
 b) cost without bibs would be between
 $2,000-$3,000 per annum
Paid for Initial program was funded by a grant from
 State Library of NSW. Some sponsorship funds
 were also received from local service clubs
 eg Rotary/Lions clubs
Kit contains 1 board book, 1 bib screen printed with our
 Born to read logo, 1 congratulations card, 1
 library leaflet, a storytime leaflet, 1 toy
 library leaflet, 1 parenting bibliography, 1
 early reading book list, 1 'reading and your
 child' leaflet, 1 evaluation sheet
Recipients Kits are distributed to all new babies who
 present to the early childhood clinic at
 Kiama Hospital. Kits are handed out on the
 baby's first visit
Supplied As above
Age As above
Percentage As above
Comments Our Born to read program is made up of two
 parts. The first part of the program is the
 baby kit which is distributed as above. The
 second part is several parent information
 sessions that are run in conjunction with
 Kiama Community College. These parenting
 sessions are generally run once a week for
 four weeks. The last sessions we conducted
 were entitled
 * Importance of play
 * Talking with your child--speech development
 (session was conducted by a speech
 * Reading together
 * Ready for school?
 All sessions were supervised by a qualified
 early childhood teacher.
 During Children's Week, October 2004, Kiama
 Library will launch a baby story time
 The program is aimed at non walking babies
 (usually under 12 months of age) and their
 parent/carer. Each storytime session will run
 for about 20 minutes with the series being
 conducted for four weeks. The group will be
 limited to 10 babies with their adult carers.
 It will be a time for finger plays, rhymes
 and parent-child book sharing. This will be a
 parent-child interaction--not a
 librarian-child event. Baby storytime will
 also provide a great opportunity to meet
 other parents of young children, while
 introducing baby to the library and literacy.
 We will follow our first session with a
 morning tea for parents.
 At their first story time session each
 parent/carer will be provided with handouts
 of rhymes and songs used, a list of suitable
 books they might like to borrow from the
 library a 'tips on reading to your baby'
 sheet and information on available parenting
 material eg books, videos.
 This will also be an opportunity to provide
 carers with information about other services
 available in the community

Name of library service Lithgow Regional. Population served 44,000
Provided for 3+ years
Cost pa $1,500
Paid for Library budget, some sponsorship
Kit contains Library bag, book, hints on reading, library
 membership forms
Recipients Every newborn
Supplied Local hospital maternity staff deliver
Age Birth
Percentage 95%
Comments Concept is slowly starting to filter through.
 Highly recommend involving hospital to ensure
 reading from birth and contact at all social
 levels. Also include hints on how to read for
 fun. Originally made kits available through
 immunisation clinics but reading from birth
 is best because some parents do not have
 infants immunised

Name of library service Mudgee. Population served 17,682
Provided for Since mid 2004
Cost pa $70 each to put together
Paid for Fully funded out of the library/council
 budget--they are free to borrow ($1 to
 reserve a pack)
Kit contains 5 books and some pamphlet information on
 literacy and reading to children which
 parents borrow as a pack
Recipients The different packs are targeted at different
 age groups (0-12 months; 12-24 months) are
 the books have been selected to appeal to
 these age groups. It is based on the program
 run out of the State Library of Tasmania. We
 have 15 packs (3 of each age group) and when
 they are returned they are restocked with the
 literacy information
Comments They are all on loan at present and there is
 very rarely one on the stand

Name of library service Wollongong City. Population served 185,000
Provided for Since May 2004, as a 10 week trial in the
 central library to determine demand. There
 was an overwhelming response to it so we have
 now extended the program to the three
 district libraries (Dapto, Corrimal and
 Warrawong) in addition to the central
 library. The programs are held weekly in the
 libraries and limited to 10 months/carers and
 babies. No older siblings are permitted due
 to possible distraction of the babies. Due to
 the demand, bookings are essential
Cost pa The initial cost was for the development of
 the staff kits. There are 5 kits costing
 approx $400, therefore total cost was $2,000.
 Ongoing costs for promotion (flyers in the
 participating library) and staffing costs,
 provision of tea for the mothers after the
 session--have not been determined at this
 stage. Council, via our children's promotion
 budget, funds this program.
Paid for The start up costs were funded from grant
Kit contains The kits which the staff use comprise toys
 (suitable for 0 to 24 month old babies),
 books--board books, vinyl, pop-ups, textured,
 a rug for the babies and finger rhymes.
 Separate kits are given to the mothers. They
 contain the session outline and leaflets
 outlining how to nurture a baby's love of
 reading, finger rhymes and a library bookmark
 with details of library opening hours,
 location etc
Age 0-24 months
Comments We have not yet measured the success of this
 program on membership figures etc. However
 anecdotal evidence suggests that the program
 has stimulated a lot of interest from young
 mothers, with the demand exceeding our
 current capability to provide the program


Name of library service Broadsound Shire Council. Population served
Provided for 2 years
Cost pa An initial cost of $3,030.00. No ongoing
Paid for Regional Arts Development Fund Grant
Kit contains Board book, membership card, information
 sheet, congratulations card, in library bag
Recipients Through local medical centre, baby clinic,
 word of mouth and visitors to the library
Supplied At the library
Age Newborns--2 year olds
Percentage 100%
Comments Will be holding regular 'Babes in arms'
 sessions in the library commencing in the
 near future to cater for babies and to
 promote the library as an excellent venue for


Name of library service Adelaide Hills. Population served 38,778
Provided for Ongoing (8 months since inception)
Cost pa Still assessing/using marketing budget
Paid for By library
Kit contains Book, leaflet 10 minutes a day, reading
 lists, library information, giveaways from
 businesses when available, library bag
Recipients Identify selves
Supplied Over library counter
Age Up to 3 months
Percentage NA (120 plus in 8 months)
Comments Very positive reaction. Now recording
 information so can send one year postcard and
 updated reading lists.
 * Difficult to reach community--have used
 local newspaper, desk information, signage,
 word of mouth
 * Staff proactive in promoting
 * Working with Angus & Robertson/local
 bookshop re bulk purchases of books
 * Friends of Library donate library bags

Name of library service Clare and Gilbert Valleys. Population served
Comments We commenced the Babies love books program in
 August 2004 in partnership with the Lower
 North Community Health Service. It has
 received funding to purchase the books and we
 will supply the bags and some information.
 Also perhaps a voucher to receive another
 book once they have joined the baby at the
 library. It is proposed that the midwives at
 the hospital will give out the bags. This
 will mean each baby born at the Clare
 Hospital will receive a library bag, book,
 literacy, pamphlets, bookmarks, vouchers etc.
 We plan to commence a lapsit storytime and
 parent information program in August as well.
 Sessions will include 20 minute storytime and
 10 minute parent education about books

Name of library service Cummins School Community. Population served
Provided for 13 1/2 years (started 9/9/90)
Cost pa $120 approx (volunteers are very astute
 buyers taking advantage of specials)
Paid for Friends of the Library
Kit contains Brochure on 'Importance of' and a book
Recipients Keep in contact with hospital re new arrivals
 (or those sent to Adelaide)
Supplied While in hospital volunteers visit new
Age First week
Percentage 100%
Comments When Reading magic by Mem Fox was published,
 discussed distributing a copy to each family
 with newborn child. Have not activated this
 yet (costs are a problem) but will keep on

Name of library service Keith School Community. Population served
Provided for 1 year
Cost pa $250 approx
Paid for By library
Kit contains A book, leaflet 10 minutes a day, pencil,
 borrower registration card for children to
 fill out, leaflet on 'Story time', bookmark
 with library information
Recipients Local CATHS nurse gives to all parents of
 newborn babies
Supplied At time of 6 weeks checkup or at the new
 parents group meeting
Age Under 6 months if possible
Percentage 100%
Comments It would be great for government funding to
 keep this type of program going

Name of library service Quorn School Community. Population served
Provided for Since 2003
Cost pa $30 per baby, 15-20 babies per year
Paid for School Community Library Board--Public
 Libraries funding plus discount of 20% from
 Meg's Bookshop in Pt Pirie
Kit contains Letter explaining idea and congratulating the
 parents; a 10 minutes a day brochure from
 Newcastle Regional Library re early reading/
 literacy; a library brochure; a copy of Mem
 Fox's Reading magic for parents with
 bookplate; a copy of Time for bed or Koala
 Lou (Mem Fox books too) with bookplate;
 wrapped and ribboned
Recipients Local knowledge. Contact hospital staff
Supplied We give a pack to all Quorn families who have
 a baby and all regional families who have a
 child at the Quorn Hospital (we are proud to
 have birthing facilities in such a relatively
 small community).
 We planned to give the packs at the hospital
 but changed to inviting them to the library
 as a family to receive it. This means some
 come in who never have before, or not for a
 long time. We send packs to outlying towns/
 station families if we miss them while they
 are here. We ask if we can take and display a
 photo on our 'welcome' board. Most are happy
 to oblige with brothers and sisters and a few
 parents in there too
Age During first 3-4 months
Percentage 100%
Comments Has meant we see more of some families than
 we usually would once 'the ice has broken' on
 the first visit. Most parents are absolutely
 delighted and surprised. Our regular library
 volunteer (also secretary of Library Board)
 is thrilled to be part of the production/
 giving procedures. Library Board unanimously
 voted to continue it this year after a trial
 last year for 2003@your library campaign


Name of library service State Library of Tasmania. Population served
Comments The State Library of Tasmania's program is a
 lending service commenced in 2003. There are
 currently about 100 Baby Book Packs available
 for each of three age groups and they can be
 reserved and sent free of charge for
 collection at any of the State Library's 48
 service points.
 The loan period is 3 weeks.
 The program has been publicised through all
 child health and childcare centres in
 Tasmania and is proving very popular. More
 packs are being developed so that every
 library will have some in the permanent
 The Baby Book Packs are part of the State
 Library's Babies who read, succeed program.
 More information is at


Name of library service Eastern Regional. Population served 388,263
Provided for Commenced in September 2004 as the Read with
 me project
Cost pa Not sure yet
Paid for We have a local government grant to initiate
Kit contains Board book and information for parents on
 reading and library services
Recipients Newborns via maternal and child health
Supplied Via MCH nurses, our lapsit programs and talks
 to new mothers
Age About 4 months
Comments Some years ago I was involved in a committee
 of Victorian public library children's
 librarians which endeavoured to get a similar
 program funded statewide. It failed; now we
 are all reinventing the work involved, in our
 individual library services. A far more
 effective and high profile method would be to
 have a state or Australia wide program
 properly funded and supported by
 government/s. The UK and US experience has
 shown these programs to be an effective way
 of alerting parents to the importance of
 reading and libraries

Name of library service Goulburn Valley Regional. Population served
Provided for Late 2004
Cost pa Unsure at this stage, depends what is
Paid for Best Start government grant
Kit contains Place mat; books and baby brochure; parenting
 magazine; board book; council and library
 information; community services directory
Recipients All children born in City of Greater
Supplied 3-4 month visit to MCH; intend to hand
 deliver or post to those families who do not
 attend MCH
Age 3-4 months
Percentage Aiming for 100%
Comments The City of Greater Shepparton (1 of 3
 library municipalities) is a project site for
 Best Start ( which
 has provided a great opportunity for
 collaboration between the library and Best
 Start to deliver a baby book bag, and other
 We have sponsorship from a publisher who is
 supplying our first year's supply of 800
 board books

Name of library service Moreland. Population served 138,000
Provided for The Moreland Bookstart kit program, launched
 in August 2000, has had outstanding success
 in encouraging parents to read to babies with
 more than 6,000 kits already distributed. The
 program is modelled on a UK scheme
Kit contains A board book, booklets giving advice on
 developing children's reading skills from an
 early age and recommended board books for
 babies, as well as information on parenting
 resources all packaged in a calico library
 bag. The 16 page booklet contained in the
 kit, Reading is forever: how to develop your
 child's reading skills and have fun together
 published by the library and using
 photographs depicting Moreland's
 multicultural mix of families, is also
 available free to all Moreland residents,
 schools and centres. Where possible, a
 bilingual board book is provided for LOTE
 speakers. A leaflet on reading to children
 produced and translated into ten different
 languages by the Free Kindergarten
 Association (FKA) Multicultural Resource
 Centre, is also included where appropriate in
 the Kit
Recipients The kit is distributed to every newborn
 Moreland baby in cooperation with the
 maternal and child health nurses. The
 distribution is followed up by talks by
 library staff to new parent groups at the
 maternal and child health centres on reading
 to babies and children
Comments In order to reinforce the reading message in
 the Bookstart kits, Moreland's library
 service provides rhyme time sessions for
 babies under 18 months every week at the
 Coburg Library and every month at Moreland's
 other four service points. The 30 minute
 sessions consist of stories, nursery rhymes,
 finger rhymes and songs. They have proved to
 be very popular with parents and babies,
 particularly as many first time parents have
 forgotten the nursery rhymes from their
 childhood. After the sessions, library staff
 are available to provide advice on reading to
 The rhyme times sessions have been very
 successful not only for their content but in
 also providing the opportunity for parents to
 engage socially with other parents. Informal
 support networks have emerged among parents
 and groups of them are frequently seen having
 coffee together at nearby cafes after rhyme
 times. Given the social isolation often
 encountered by first time parents, the rhyme
 time sessions play a valuable social role in
 connecting people and fostering wellbeing.
 An evaluation survey was undertaken of
 parents who had received a Bookstart kit up
 to March 2001. Results from the 300
 respondents found that 35 per cent of parents
 began to read to their babies for the first
 time as a result of the kit while 60 per cent
 began reading to their babies more often.
 General feedback from parents was very
 positive with many praising the concept and
 providing useful advice for the future
 development of the program. Given the UK
 research and Moreland's own experiences with
 the Bookstart program, there seems no better
 project to give children a good start to
 education and life skills

Name of library service Wimmera Regional. Population served 52,081
Provided for 3 1/2 years
Cost pa $6,000
Paid for First two years received sponsorship which
 covered bag and book. Library covered rest of
Kit contains Cloth bag, board book, membership form,
 nursery rhyme booklet, reading advice
 booklets, library promotional material,
 sponsor promotional material, growth chart
Recipients All new babies born in region identified via
 maternal health nurses
Supplied Maternal health nurses distribute the kits
Age Birth--1 year
Percentage 100% to start--currently only first babies
Comments General feedback indicates that everyone who
 received the bag thinks they are a great idea
 and appreciate them. The maternal health
 nurses are very supportive, but it has not
 yet translated into more babies attending the
 Sponsorship covered bag and book cost for
 first two years and we had sufficient bags to
 last into third year. In 2004 we have
 produced a minimal number of bags with no
 board book and using our general plastic
 promotional bags to try and continue the
 program and contain cost. We are
 investigating how to continue the program,
 and ways to get the new parents and babies
 into the library as early as possible


Name of library service Bridgetown-Greenbushes. Population served
Provided for 1 year
Cost pa $100
Paid for By library
Kit contains Calico library bag; board book and pamphlets;
 membership form
Recipients From child health centre
Supplied At an afternoon tea in the library and talk
 by librarian, child nurse and speech
Age 7 months
Percentage 10%

Name of library service Broome. Population served 13,500
Provided for Commenced 2004
Cost pa $8721.50--includes staff time
Paid for Grant from Office of Multicultural interests
Kit contains Library bag, brochures for library services,
 board book, brochures for other common
Recipients All babies born at Broome Hospital
Supplied Personal presentation
Age Newborn
Percentage 100%
Comments This will be an initiative we will be looking
 at continuing longterm. It comes with tagged
 information on the library database and
 community interconnectivity shown through
 greater participation in other library

Name of library service Capel. Population served 8,500
Provided for 2 1/2 years
Cost pa Nil directly. Covered by staff time and local
 health service
Paid for Indirectly Shire of Capel, local health
 service and sponsors
Kit contains Board book, information about literacy
 services, speech and language development,
 local toy library, services provided by local
 health service to parents and carers
Recipients Child health nurses forward names/addresses
 of people who attend 7-9 month checks (with
 their permission)
Supplied At information session held in library
Age 7-9 months
Comments Funding is always a problem although local
 businesses do sponsor book purchases or
 donate suitable calico bags. It is stressful
 as we never know whether the scheme can

Name of library service Collie. Population served 8,500
Provided for 5 years
Cost pa $200
Paid for Shire/grants
Kit contains Board book, library brochure, toy library
 flyer, storytime flyer, reading/literacy
 brochures, speech development information
Recipients Local infant health clinic
Supplied Information session at the library by
Age 9 months
Percentage 50%+
Comments Strong bonds seem to form at mothers groups/
 playgroups, and storytime competes with these
 groups for attendance.
 I would like to form a network with other
 interested parties (I currently only work
 with the speech pathologist and the infant
 health nurse) to include playgroup
 representatives, pre primary representatives,
 others in the primary health field for follow
 up sessions after Bookstart

Name of library service Derby/West Kimberley. Population served 8,500
Barriers Funding. We have done a few sessions paid out
 of our budget in preparation for setting up
 the program and have been getting a committee
 together. We are now ready to apply for a
 grant to maintain the program
Cost pa Estimated cost will be $3,000
Kit contains Board book, Better beginning pamphlet,
 library pamphlet
Supplied Through local child health nurses and morning
 tea at health centre or night time sessions
 at library or session with young mothers
Age Varies--usually in the first year

Name of library service Geraldton Regional. Population served 30,770
Provided for 1 1/2 years
Cost pa $2,000 approx
Paid for Friends of Library, donations from Mayor,
 library budget, DLD grant
Kit contains Book for baby, brochures about literacy and
 the library
Recipients Antenatal classes
Supplied Visit the library by personal invitation
Age 3 months approx
Percentage 20%
Comments I would like to present the program more
 widely than just these mothers. Currently
 attending antenatal classes at the private
 hospital. The government hospital is not
 willing to participate in the program. We
 need to find another way to make contact with
 the parents we currently do not reach

Name of library service Katanning. Population served 4,950
Cost $10 per child per year
Paid for Shire and community funding
Kit contains Book, resource manual
Supplied At birth from child health nurse
Age Birth
Percentage 100%
Comments Run by Smart start

Name of library service Mandurah. Population served 51,300
Provided for Since March 2004, ongoing
Cost pa Under review. $3,500 for board books, staff
 time to prepare bags and do workshops
Paid for Local government and grant funding
Kit contains Baby book, library leaflet, growth chart,
 library membership form, other related
Recipients Through pool health campus nurses
Supplied Via health nurse
Age 6-8 weeks
Percentage Approx 97%
Comments Sue North, State Library of WA, is
 conducting/overseeing the WA Better
 beginnings program. Currently in 6 pilot
 areas in WA. Edith Cowan University is doing
 a 5 year evaluation of the impact this
 project has on childhood literacy

Name of library service Manjimup. Population served 5,000
Provided for 6 months
Cost pa $1000
Paid for Shire of Manjimup from promotions budget
Kit contains Board book, library bag and information
Recipients Through the child health nurse
Supplied At an afternoon tea in the library
Age Under 12 months
Percentage 80% aiming for 100%
Comments We are planning for more Bookstart events and
 the library is involved in a plan to extend
 the program so that parents and children
 under four years are provided with more
 resources and information. The aim is to
 provide informal gatherings to introduce
 families to all the services available to
 them and to have a mentoring system to keep
 in touch. There is a program called Smart
 start already operating in WA which we would
 like to emulate. Funding is to be finalised;
 we have had contributions from Rotary and the
 Early Years Strategy Office of WA state

Name of library service Nyabing. Population served 600
Provided for 2 years
Cost pa $116.51
Paid for By Shire of Kent
Kit contains Books, puppets, games, toys
Recipients If they are a library or Smart start member
Supplied President of the group distributes one item
Age 6, 12 months then every year to 3 years of
Percentage 80%

Name of library service Stirling. Population served 176,000
Provided for 3 1/2 years
Cost pa $2,500
Paid for By Council
Kit contains Book for the baby, book for parents,
 bookmark, information about reading to
 babies, brochure about library services
Recipients Parents who come in with babies are
 encouraged to join. We also run a parents
 session for people to come to and babies join
 from there
Supplied When they join the baby at the library
Age 0-12 months
Percentage Do not know total number born in area
Comments * Let's take advantage of the political
 climate and make it national using WA's
 Better beginnings program as a template
 * New parents are very receptive to the
 information. It has been a good PR exercise
 * In addition we run 'Hug a book parents
 sessions' with a speech pathologist talking
 about language development and the
 librarian talking about reading to babies.
 We join 50-60 babies each year this way

* Bookstart is the usage by the UK program to deliver free book kits or packs to babies to encourage parents and caregivers to read to them. Broadly synonymous are Books for babies, Read with me; Babies who read, succeed; Sow the seeds to read," and Born to read


(1) See Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy

(2) Casterton, G Adult learning Australia commentary 20 2001

(3) Butler, D Babies need books 2nd edition London, Penguin 1988

(4) Spreadbury, J Read me a story: parents, teachers and children as partners in literacy learning Melbourne, Australian Reading Association 1994 p 16

(5) Rolton, G Read to me. a practical guide to sharing books with your child in the vital preschool years Melbourne, ACER 2001 pl04 Fox, M Reading magic: how your child can learn to read before school and other read aloud miracles Sydney, Pan Macmillan 2001




(10) Booktouch

(11) Moore, M and Wade, B Bookstart: a qualitative evaluation Educational review 55(1) 2003 pp11-12

(12) Rohl, M et al Evaluating better beginnings." a family literacy program in Australia Paper presented at the CECDE international conference, Dublin July 2004 available

(13) Panozzo, G Read all about it: the Moreland reading project and the UK national reading campaigns Australasian public libraries and information services 15(2) June 2002 pp52-60

(14) Bundy, A & J eds Directory of Australian public libraries 6th edition Adelaide, Auslib Press 2003

(15) Australian library news 9 September 2004

(16) McClelland, N Building a literate nation: the key role of public libraries Australasian public libraries and information services 16(2) June 2003 pp56-65

(17) North, S Catching them in the cradle: family literacy programs Australasian public libraries and information services 16 (2) June 2003 pp66-71

(18) ibid

(19) The Australian 28 October 2004 p5

This first Friends of Libraries Australia (Fola) report to the nation was launched by Fola president Peter McInnes at the 10th anniversary celebration of the establishment of Friends of Libraries Australia, a celebration held in the National Library of Australia 3 December 2004. It is made freely available in print or electronically to Fola members, and other interested parties and is accessible on the Fola website Feedback to Fola about the report through its author is also encouraged or PO Box 622 Blackwood SA 5051 fax 08 82784000.

Dr Alan Bundy BA DipEd MLitt MLib PhD FALIA is university librarian of the University of South Australia and founder and editorial director of Auslib Press, Australasia's largest publisher of library and information science. He has consulted and published widely, and has edited the quarterly journal Australasian public libraries and information services since 1988. In 1988, and again in 2002, Dr Bundy was national president of the Australian Library and Information Association. He is vice president/president elect of Friends of Libraries Australia. His professional interests include information literacy, public libraries, joint use libraries and publishing
COPYRIGHT 2004 Auslib Press Party Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Bundy, Alan
Publication:Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 1, 2004
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