Global Network for Early Years Bookgifting



Early Years Bookgifting programmes, with a health sector lead or partnership, developed in the early 1990s in the USA and UK. In the UK this was BookTrust’s Bookstart programme, which also included key library partnerships. Bookstart spread to Europe and East Asia after the year 2000. At that time early years bookgifting programmes developed in Canada, Australia and elsewhere. European organisations met through EU Read; also through occasional conferences by EU Read members in the UK and in Germany; and we aligned more globally through BookTrust’s previous Bookstart Affiliate scheme. There is strong awareness of the value of sharing experience as peers – to foster innovation, excellence and resilience. These organisations have also helped advise nations beginning new programmes – which has been taking place across Nordic, Baltic and Central European countries from 2015. All this has led to this new initiative to share globally, using the digital opportunities now available to us – and in due course we hope also to meet in person.


A global network of early childhood programmes providing free books and reading guidance to promote shared reading.

The network is managed by EU Read. Many members of EU Read and of the wider network have been inspired by Bookstart in the UK.


The goal of the network is to strengthen existing early years bookgifting programmes and help organisations install new ones.

We will do this by sharing resources on the website, discussing programmes in online meetings with presentations, and in due course sharing experience through webinars and in-person/offline conferences.

The initial priority of the Network is to establish a well-working and stable world-wide network. We plan to meet online four times a year.

Programme Eligibility Criteria – programmes wishing to join are required to meet the following criteria:

  • The programme promotes shared reading and/or reading aloud to parents and carers
  • The programme provides new books (not used) which are carefully curated, and developmentally appropriate
  • The programme provides its books and materials free to families
  • The programme must be ‘at scale’ – city-wide or larger
  • The programme is informed by good quality evidence and includes evaluation and review
  • The programme is not-for-profit
  • The programme does not have a political or religious purpose

The Network supports the following values:

  • Universality – Where possible the programme should be delivered universally to all children within the programme’s catchment group, inclusive of all socio-economic, geographic and special needs groups. The Network also supports targeted programmes which provide special support and outreach efforts for remote communities or children with unique needs.
  • Working in Partnership – The programme is usually delivered by a network of partners with a shared commitment to supporting early reading promotion.  These partners may include health professionals, librarians and other Early Years practitioners, including trained volunteers. Where possible these partners gift the book(s) in person, encourage regular shared reading, and have been trained to model reading aloud or shared reading for the parents and carers.
  • Promoting a positive reading culture in the home – The programme does not teach reading or the mechanics of reading but motivates parents and caregivers to read to, and share books with babies in a non-didactic way.  These fun and loving early experiences will help to nurture a lifelong love of reading, and children will come to connect the joy of reading with their positive early experiences with books.
  • Bonding and Attachment – The programme should encourage positive engagement, connection and interaction around books and reading to support bonding and attachment and nurture healthy emotional development
  • Emergent Literacy – The programme helps nurture emergent ‘literacy’ skills.

Meeting schedule 2019-2020:

  • June 11, 2019 – Multilingual provision and Diversity
  • Sept 12, 2019 – Using volunteers, and community invigoration
  • Nov 20, 2019 – Best practice quality bookgifting
  • Feb 13, 2020 –  Maternity hospital and Health Clinic bookgifting
  • May 4, 2020 –   Impact evaluation, including of emotional development
  • June 18, 2020 – Supporting vulnerable and at risk families
  • July 1, 2020 –    Targeting the hard to reach
  • Nov 17, 2020 –  Progress of new programmes
  • Nov 19, 2020 –  Book Selection

Participants take responsibility for what they share, and are recommended to share information that is already or can become public. Nevertheless, we know the value of open sharing, and we aim to develop an environment where members feel able to share confidentially and can do so through agreed mechanisms.

The Working Group for the network is made up of the following members: Carol McDougall (Read to Me! – Nova Scotia), Daan Beeke/Marijke Bos (Stichting Lezen – Netherlands), Izumi Satou (Bookstart Japan), Lotte Baert (Iedereen Leest – Belgium), Peter Jenkins (BookTrust – UK), Gemma Lyon (Better Beginnings – Western Australia), Sabine Bonewitz (Stiftung Lesen & EU Read – Germany)

If you have any further questions regarding the network, or would like an application form, please contact

Powerpoints from meetings

Feb 2020 – Maternity hospital and Health Clinic bookgifting

Nov 2019 – Best practice quality bookgifting

Sept 2019 – Using volunteers, and community invigoration

June 2019 – Multilingual provision and Diversity

March 2019 – Trial meetings

Presentations from meetings

20 November 2019 meeting – Best practice quality bookgifting

Catriona Wallace: Scottish Book Trust –  ‘Quality Bookgifting: a recent impact study and learning what works’
Marijke Bos: Boekstart Netherlands, Dutch Reading Foundation (Stichting Lezen) – ‘Improving the quality of bookgifting.’
Jennifer Luk: BookTrust, UK – ‘Using Bookstart with families: our programme best practice guidance’


12 September 2019 meeting – Using volunteers, and community invigoration



Ahn, Chan-soo: Bookstart Korea – Reading Promotion for Children in Korea: Using volunteers, and community invigoration

Izumi Satou: Bookstart Japan – Working with volunteers and community invigoration

Laurence McLaughlin: Books4Babies, Ireland – Encouraging voluntary involvement and community participation

11 June 2019 launch meetingMultilingual provision and Diversity

Annie Crombie: BookTrust, UK: Welcome on behalf of EU Read, and working group
Olivia Crill: BookTrust UK –  ‘Bookstart for English as an Additional Language (EAL) literature review and initial pilot results’ 
Carol McDougall: Read to me! Nova Scotia – ‘Addressing the language needs of First Nations communities. Nurturing new generations of Mi’kmaq speakers.’
Izumi Satou: Bookstart Japan – ‘Bookstart in Japan: Support for non Japanese Speakers’
Discussion on Wordless Books


28 March 2019 Trial Meeting

Lotte Baert: ‘Boekstart Flanders update and professionalisation’
Izumi Satou: ‘Bookstart in Japan: A sustainable structure for self motivated programmes.’




21 March 2019 Trial Meeting

Linda Thorne: ‘Better Beginnings, Partnerships’
Marijke Bos: ‘Bookstart in the Netherlands, Growth and development of an established programme’