Global Network Meeting 23 April 2020
Reach Out & Read, USA
For well-child checkups that are occurring, books are still being given out. But for many checkups that have been cancelled or moved to telehealth, we are not providing books.
We at Reach Out and Read have often discussed how challenging times for families with young children underscores the importance of our mission – that while yes, we are all about reading and book sharing, at our core, we are about promoting healthy, language-rich parent-child interactions. Especially as millions of children are out of school or child-care programs, at home every day with their families, those children need to feel loved and supported and engaged. And we know how hard that can be, even under the best of circumstances. But in times of crisis, when adults who care for young children experience their own anxiety, the concern for the well-being of children is paramount.
In the meeting it was commented: Clinics are encouraging immunization and well-child visits in the first 2 years, but it will decrease for ages 2.5-5s. So Reach Out and Read are experimenting with a digital approach for these ages. US pediatrics has not been used to telehealth, so it has been a crash course, and there are gaps in the training available to providers. Telehealth is more about the mind – not body – the social and emotional development; and doctors seeing into homes in a way they could not before, and more aware of relationships, so are more aware how can books be part of the solution. So books seem all the more important, and how to build it into routines in a new way.
We have had the same conversations about the long term impact of digital, so the focus is still physical books where we can do that. Use of screens might increase longterm, but we want to convey the message that screens are to foster engagement.
Welcome Baby, Edmonton Libraries, Alberta, Canada
We have suspended all of our bookgifting programs as of March 13th. Our Welcome Baby kits are packed and delivered by volunteers, and all volunteer programs were also suspended on March 13th. We are not and have not been distributing our kits through any other methods.
We are developing a “voucher” that health centres and hospitals can give out to provide some early literacy info and let parents know to visit the library when we reopen to pick up a package.
In the meeting it was commented: Libraries are closed, and the majority of staff laid off, and volunteers cannot pack and deliver kits to health centres and hospitals. But we are developing a voucher to mail, as nurses have got used to giving something. And 2 month immunization is continuing as well as ever, when they usually gift.
Read to Me, Nova Scotia, Canada
Read to Me has temporarily suspended bedside book bag delivery in hospitals. Maternity wards will continue to deliver book bags to families until their current stock runs out. Each hospital ward has received a printable letter for parents (in English, French, Arabic and Chinese) that will be shared with them in the paperwork they receive when they are discharged from the hospital. The letter invites parents to visit our website to order a Read to Me bag to be mailed to them when normal program operations resume.
We work with the birth units in hospitals. They are using up their stock of book bags, and when this is used up they are distributing information to parents at discharge that directs them to our website, where they can request a bag.
In the meeting it was commented: We have created 0-3m and 4-6m packs, with milestones and book recommendations, songs and rhymes, tips, an about bookstores delivering to houses or pick-ups, and libraries online.
Raising Literacy, South Australia
South Australian Child and Family Health Nurses continue to delivery (for now) the baby and toddler reading packs to families in their homes.
The 23,000 Preschool Reading packs have been distributed over the last 6 weeks across South Australia by Preschool Directors to their families.
This week we gifted 15,000 aged appropriate board and picture books and activity books to 24 selected sites across South Australia to support vulnerable communities and their families with children aged birth to five years. The sites include Early Childhood Children Centre’s and Preschools. The centres and schools are packaging up home literacy packs for their families based on the books and resources received from RLA . They are using the books we’ve supplied to do their own storytime sessions. Feedback from educators that children are loving seeing their teacher reading to them online. The schools and centres are also maintaining contact with their families by ringing them each week. And in the meeting it was added: Many pre-schools were anticipating lock down so developing online work and thinking more fully about their relationship with the home, and phoning homes, with a literacy focus of engagement, which was heartening. A changed and improved relationship of home and school.
We will continue to post through the Dept Education Distribution Centre to 1500+ children who are in Foster, Kinship and Residential Care age appropriate board/picture books, direct to the child’s home.
We continue to supply books and resources to NGOs and Community Services including Foodbank, United Care Wesley Bowden, Family Zone. And in the meeting it was added: an additional 15,000 books as these partners are now further inundated with need. We are doing a lot more than usual, as the demand has grown. Including online, and the last 5-6 weeks also focusing on digital.
In South Australia we have been operating for 4 years a targeted ReadtoMe program where we post to children who are in Out of Home Care with 10 books at the start and then every 3 months we post another 3 books. The survey to foster or kindship parent shows that by receiving regular books in the post they have significantly changed how they engage daily with their child/ren through reading and talking. We are thankful to have the South Australian Education Department who post the prepacked book packs direct to the children’s home. The database is looked after the Dept for Child Protection.
I believe what Covid19 has done internationally is raise how important literacy is and how to provide access to families in their homes.
In the meeting it was asked: Whether local supermarkets or chemists in vulnerable areas can be distribution centres for book packs? And the idea of supporting local police officers with resources they can take into vulnerable homes. It is something we can explore in South Australia and feed back to the network on how it goes.
It was also stated: It has taken such a long term to fully engage the health nurse gifters that we don’t want to lose that. But the children in care posting model also works very well. Maybe both will go forward well in the future.
Book Dash, South Africa
South Africa is under complete lockdown, one of the strictest globally, I’ve read. So, we paused while we were exploring, but are now distributing books through feeding schemes (as school feeding schemes were essential for many children, so organisations continue this but in a different way, for families with a weekly pick up). Sometimes, this means working with and briefing new partners (who aren’t used to distributing books) on why books are important for young children. Sometimes existing partners are still operating just to feed the children/families they usually support. In that case, we’re topping up their books. We needed to apply for a license to operate as an “essential service”, in order to do this (and we now have got this, and the books are going out with food parcels, and parents are very pleased to have something to do with their children that supports education, entertainment and emotional bonding.) However, we’re not able to print more books as printers are not operating, so once existing stock runs out, we’ll need another plan. This is also reliant on funding to recover the costs spent on printing and storing the extra books from a previous print run.
Our books also get adapted to appear as “fold-up” books in community newspapers across the country through a partnership, and that will continue, though reach is undoubtedly affected. It’s a usual partnership we have with Nal’ibali and local newspapers. I’ve attached an example of how they’re designed. They appear on the centre-fold of a literacy-promotion newspaper supplement that Nal’ibali co-ordinate. They’re also bilingual (home language and English) and translated into 7 of South Africa’s 11 official languages. The attached includes Afrikaans along with the English. While it’s only printed on newsprint, nothing more durable, the children who get these (either through the newspaper, or through Nal’ibali reading clubs across the country) cut them out, fold them up and often store them in 2 litre ice-cream containers to protect them!
Since no city has been put on lockdown so far, book gifting is still ongoing, and we continue to assist in the planning of “Infant and Toddler’s Reading Zone” in the libraries. Nonetheless, the training course for volunteers and librarians, and reading seminar for parents have been put off. Further, we already had our celebration of our BookStart anniversary last October; if the epidemic is not ebbing this fall, we surely will hold the events online.
Besides delivering books to your home service, our libraries are still open and they are strict on the prevention measures, such as taking temperature, using hand sanitizer and wearing masks before entering. Some storytelling activities have been held in outdoor spaces.
Our National Library announced a booklist of “Reading x Healing x Epidemic Prevention”. They encourage people to feel relieved and to acquire knowledge during such a special time. They also worked with a famous illustrator to make beautiful “WE ARE READING AT HOME” bookmarks as free giveaway, to encourage people either to check out E-books at libraries or to buy a book from the bookstores and read at home.
In the meeting it was added: Libraries are still open, except in one city, but they provide packages of books for people to collect. And the libraries are partners of the Hsin-Yi foundation. So early years bookgifting continues, but some events are stopped. Some cities still run story-telling programmes, both outdoor – which are very successful, and listening outside is a different experience – and if indoor, with a limited number of participants. Also gifting through hospitals, clinics, and household registration offices. So we have more than 3 ways to gift to parents. It depends on the local city. But we have closed training programmes for volunteers in libraries and reading seminars for friends. We don’t plan to reopen these. But are helping with young children’s activities, reading corners or zones.
In Japan, delivering packs face to face and sending the message directly has been very important, but sending book packs by post will be one of the ways to reach the target for a while… There are no group health checks now, so some local authorities want to post packs; but we have always emphasized face-to-face gifting and messaging, so we don’t want to destroy 20 years of promotion; but are thinking of a letter and QR code link to videos which show how babies react to books, and give the message we want to send. In the meeting it was also stated: If we make posting a good model, afterwards people might say this is easier, and we don’t need volunteers or librarians. I would like to do research, such as a survey to those who receive bookstart by post, to compare with face-to-face gifting. Hopefully to encourage actual storytime.
Lukukeskus, Finnish Reading Centre, Finland
Family health clinic nurses give our book bags to families. So far they are still running the check-ups for families with children less than 1 year old, which means our target group is covered and our program is running normally.
National Literacy Agency, Malta
In Malta, book packs are delivered to vulnerable families through schools but these have been closed since the 13th March till the end of June, and we had to stop this service. And libraries are closed. To counter this, as from next week, the Agency in collaboration with the Malta Trust Foundation which has set up a Food Aid Project for vulnerable families, will start delivering book packs together with food and basic essentials. (So we are providing books, and companies and the government are providing laptops.) All reading sessions have been temporarily suspended.
Social campaign ‘Small Book – Great Man’, Polish Book Institute, Poland
Project for newborns (0-3): We continue distributing reading packets in maternity wards in state hospitals. Usually we reach more than 380 hospitals throughout the country (97% of all hospitals in Poland), now we reach 330 hospitals. 25 hospitals had to resign because the ministry have changed the role of these hospitals (infectious hospitals); 25 hospitals resigned because the staff were afraid of receiving packets and additional activities as handing books to parents.
The company which distributes our materials has their own team of sales representatives who personally take packages to hospitals several times a year. Staff of hospitals feel safer receiving reading layettes from them because they established a long-term and stable cooperation before COVID-19.
Projects for preschoolers: All libraries in Poland are closed so it is impossible to distribute reading packets among children. Librarians try to organize a lot of on-line activities (reading aloud, meeting with writers, workshops) – they also try to use for these activities our books from the book gifting program. All the time we are in contact with librarians – we try to support them and supply them with useful materials.
Buchstart Österreich/ Bookstart Austria
In Austria the handling of the contacts to the parents is very diverse and not centralized. In compliance with the actual regulations the libraries and partners will find the best way to distribute their offers and gifts. As this happens very often in combination with meetings and celebrations, in many cases it will be postponed to the autumn. Actual online orders of our material show us, that several libraries already prepare for bookstart activities in the near future.
In regards to corona nobody knows what will happen in the next months or years – but we see that bringing books and stories into families never has been of such importance. And we notice a real hunger for books. It is still forbidden to enter public libraries, but some started to put ordered book packages on the windowsills – so the readers can take them without any personal contact. They put books in a place where you can take them. Or they even bring you the books. The slogan in Dornbirn: Closed but open: https://stadtbibliothek.dornbirn.at/ausleihe/buecherservice
In Austria I now notice an overload on digital offers. Every institution, every second publisher and every third author is offering online readings. The engagement is high, the quality is low. It’s good for us to learn how to handle the technology, but we have to pay attention not to lose credibility with our readers. Most of us have experience in publishing books of high quality. In case of producing audio and video it’s sometimes better to recommend the broad range of audiobooks and children’s videos that already exist.
The last months we noted that more and more decisions were made on a regional or local level. That’s very well compatible with bookstart – bookstart believes in local competences and that parents (and other family members) are the best companions for babies and kids on their way into the world of books and reading.
Following that premise it is consequent to empower the multipliers not just to hand over gifts and motivate parents in using our material but to be active and creative in adopting and realising the goals of the bookstart idea. We have good experiences in providing our member libraries all our materials (texts, pictures, videos) for their own local bookstart adaptations. Now, in times of Corona, we are in consideration to provide all our materials for public use and put it under a creative commons licence (CC BY-NC – Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Public License).
Schweizerisches Institut für Kinder und Jugendmedien SIKJM, Switzerland
Libraries have been closed from 16 March to 11 May. Some went on with book delivery or with a pick up station. Some just offered the normal digital library material. All events in libraries have been and will be forbidden at least till summer. A very few libraries have offered Bookstart online sessions (to be watched on a specific time or continuously). As the distribution of our Bookstart packages to the families is mainly made via libraries this seems to have been blocked. The distribution via pediatricians as well as nurses has been going on. Delivery of the packages to libraries has never been disrupted but the demand for the packages has declined.
Children’s Books Ireland
In the meeting it was stated: We have been working on a campaign (not gifting) to encourage sharing between grandparents and children over video conference software: video, instructions, tips. We also know libraries are delivering books to older people, and they could include books for children. We support the idea of a survey that supports face-to-face, as a postal programme is a real risk for our programmes long term.
German Reading Foundation/ Stiftung Lesen, Germany
In the lesestart-program the pediatricians are one of our main partners who give the packages to the families – so this way can be continued, because the families still go to their doctor. But we will see how the crises attacks the next steps, because for example it won’t be easy to get the cotton-bags in time that we need for our Lesestart-Sets.
In the meeting it was added: But schools and kindergartens are closed, so it is hard for all families. But we are very busy as reading aloud interest has grown massively and they need support, with digital solutions.
Boekstart Flanders, Iedereen Leest, Belgium
Most of the libraries are closed in Flanders, but they do organise pick-up points. People can reserve their books online and can pick-up a package of books. Once the books get back to the libraries, they are disinfected. So far, we are not aware of libraries who do this with baby books as well…
The health centers only do their vaccination program, so there is no time to distribute the book packs to 6 months old babies there… We hope babies will get their pack on their next visit anyway.
We are thinking of a summer action to distribute baby and toddler packs to all babies and toddler who didn’t get their packs due to the corona-crisis. So for now, everything is on hold. No packs delivered.
Dutch Reading Foundation, Stichting Lezen, Netherlands
The libraries in the Netherlands are closed and the packages are not distributed, but so many new initiatives pop up online. Reading videos, animated picture books, audiobooks etc. And in the meeting it was commented: Parents who have a baby during this period are facing a difficult and strange time. No visits for instance. So we can offer them a positive message to bond through songs and books.
Scottish Book Trust
We understand that the current COVID-19 pandemic presents significant challenges for families with babies and young children. The Bookbug programme aims to support families through this difficult time with an extensive digital offer, physical resources for those in greatest need, and support for our network of Bookbug trained professionals who can share messages and ideas with families. We are adapting both our universal and targeted programmes to reflect the current situation.
The majority of book gifting activity has been paused as lockdown has impacted on our book gifting partners. Bookbug bags are still being given out by some health visitors in local health boards, however the number of contact visits for families has been reduced to a minimum at present. The majority of nurseries and early years settings are closed therefore some 3 year old children will not receive their bags at the correct time.
We will work with our partners to plan distribution of bags to those who have missed out after the strict lockdown period has passed.
We are launching a campaign to get overstock of books and resources out to families who do not have access to these materials at home and are unable to access digital activities (e.g. families living in significant poverty or those registered homeless). Books and drawing/writing activities will be distributed through local authority education and social work hubs, and food distribution programmes.
In the meeting it was added: Delivery through health is patchy. Some health visitors gift, others do not have the capacity at the moment. Probably we will cancel June deliveries, but we will provide book donations through the local authority education hubs to the most vulnerable families.
We’re hoping to start back our deliveries to each local authority in September (hopefully!), increasing the amount to make up for no June delivery. We’re also looking into ways to get the bags to those who’ve missed them (eg. having a supply in libraries when they reopen). Definitely a challenge as lots of babies and toddlers will have been missed.
We are working across the organisation to work out the best ways we can support our partners and beneficiaries. We have told our Local Authority partners that we can be flexible to their needs in how they use our resources– and in the meantime paused general delivery of programmes such as Bookstart, recognising that many of our usual channels are currently paused themselves (eg library buildings closed although many are exploring their digital offers). And we are talking to Local Authorities about how we might still reach families – particularly those in more need – and out of these conversations are already coming innovative ideas which we will be working through in the coming days and weeks. We are able to engage with those Local Authorities who still have delivery mechanisms in place, to support older early years and school age children: the nurseries and schools that have stayed open to cater for children of essential workers and the most vulnerable; and for our children in care programme where Local Authorities mail directly to children.
We are wondering if it might be possible to deliver books to grandparents – for them to read on-line with grandchildren. To help preserve meaningful connections and bonding across divided families.
We have been heartened to hear from families that connection in families over books has been even more important in these stressful times. And we have heard that police are looking for such positives to help vulnerable families.
BookTrust regional office in Wales – We agree that getting books (and key messages about early reading) to those who have missed out will be a challenge, especially to those not engaged in library services. A voucher is an interesting idea; perhaps an ‘e-voucher’ is something to consider.
BookTrust regional office in N.Ireland – Although Sure Start children’s services in Northern Ireland are closed, staff are still in touch with families and we have been able to send books and resources which can be gifted to children and families.