Category Archives: Books

Happy Birthday Bookstart

Twenty years is, make no mistake, a very long time. If you do the math, Kim Kardashian could fit at least 100 72-day marriages into that amount of time. Just think how much quality reality television 20 years could produce? It would be like “divorced, beheaded, died…” (ad infinitum) for the twenty-first century. Well, you’ll probably be relieved to know that we don’t do any TV programming here at the Booktrust. But we do share books.

Over the last 20 years, our free bookgifting programme Bookstart has delivered 32 million books to babies and toddlers. Now, I know it’s hard to imagine what 32 million books would look like, or how many bookshelves or libraries it could fill. But just think, if the UK population is estimated at about 62 million, then 32 million books is a lot of books to a lot of babies.

Numerous studies have shown the positive impact reading of to your baby. Research carried out by Professor Barrie Wade and Dr Maggie Moore in the initial phases of Bookstart showed significant differences between families that received Bookstart packs and those that didn’t. The research concluded that not only do families that receive book packs continue to share more books, but that the quality of interaction between parent and child is enhanced. These benefits are far from short term. Wade and Moore found that upon starting school, Bookstart children were significantly ahead of their classmates in all reading and number assessments, and were still ahead in learning by the age of seven.

During National Bookstart Week last month Booktrust revealed new research concluding that nearly two thirds of parents are not reading with their babies at seven months. The research, carried out by ICM on behalf of Booktrust also found that 57% of parents do not own a single baby book until they receive their Bookstart packs, and 75% of parents reported sharing books with their babies as a direct result of receiving their Bookstart packs. These statistics prove the continuing need for programmes like Bookstart. And the wonderful thing about Bookstart is that no-one gets left behind. Every baby and toddler in every postcode in England, Wales and Northern Ireland receives their book packs.

And it isn’t just about giving books. Bookstart also provides resources to support and guide parents in reading with their children. Did you know that one in five London parents has such poor literacy skills they cannot read a bedtime story to their children? True story. Bookstart can help.

That’s why this year, in order to secure funding and support for Bookstart for future generations, we launched the campaign Bookstart 20. Bookstart 20 asks people to pledge their support by simply filling out an online form or postcard and pledging to share 20 books in 2012. If you would like to join the campaign to support Bookstart please makeyour pledge here:

HRH Duchess of Cornwall attended a Bookstart 20 celebratory event at the Kensington Roof Gardens as part of National Bookstart Week last month. The event gathered together many of Bookstart’s other marvellous supporters too, from publishers to celebrities, including Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson and presenter Lauren Laverne. The sun shone as everyone sang Happy Birthday to Bookstart and indulged in a scrumptious spot of birthday cake in a delightful afternoon.

Copy Credit: Iman Qureshi Photo credit: Tom Pilston

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Guest Post from Melvin Burgess

The Hay Fever Blog is delighted to welcome the brilliant Melvin Burgess to its pages, as he completes a whistle stop tour of the blogosphere to celebrate the publication of Kill All Enemies.


Down by the Corn Exchange in Leeds was a place for teenagers to hang out for ages. They’ve been turfed away these days – the Corn Exchange has been opened up as a select shopping precinct and restaurant. The kids – as usual – get no where to go. Even hanging out is hard when you have no money to spend.

Still today you can see a few kids – oddballs usually, the Goths, the Metal heads, the punks – hanging around the steps, although the management don’t like it. Back when I was doing my research for KAE there were many more. You could see people hanging out there any day of the week, but it was on a Saturday that it really came into its own. On the steps, and behind the Corn Exchange, and along the Canal there, you’d get dozens of kids, from early teens to early twenties, talking, hanging out and parading up and down in all their finery and glory. Quite a sight back then.

My friend Debbie Moody, who works for Leeds Libraries put me in touch with Deeta, who worked at that time as a kind of mobile youth. Every Saturday she’d be there, walking up and down the streets behind the Corn Exchange, chatting and watching out for the young people who were out to socialise. She introduced to me a few of people who hung out round there, and in particular, she introduced me to Kill All Enemies – the band that gave their name to my book.

There were four in the. Big lads. Tough looking lads, in their late teens and early twenties. Long hair, jeans, tattoos. A dodgy looking bunch. If you met these guys on the street late at night, you might well cross the road and skulk by on the other side.

I’ve met up with a few people over the years to get stories out of them. Lawyers, researchers, teachers, care workers, lecturers – you name it. Most people are happy to chat over a cup of tea, but every now and then, it feels right to take people out somewhere. Almost always, this is a meal. It’s a relaxed setting, you have time, you can chat about this and that. But somehow, with KAE, the restaurant option didn’t feel quite right. I gave them the option and as I expected, they went for a drink. So – one Saturday night I took a fistful of money out of the hole in the wall and set off down Leeds for my meeting in a scuzzy pub in the town center.

The boys were unbelievably honest. I can safely say, I wasn’t at all prepared for the stories they had lined up for me when I arrived.


Kill All Enemies blog tour will continue tomorrow over at The Book Smugglers

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Reading People, Writing Character by Western Mysteries author Caroline Lawrence

Are you the sort of person who can run sprints of academic brilliance but endures cringing marathons of social ineptitude? Can you remember facts, figures and dates if they relate to your particular obsession, while frequently forgetting your colleagues names? Do you introduce yourself to people youve already met several times before, as you secretly conquer imaginary worlds in your head?

I am! And I am continually fascinated by people or characters who are slightly dysfunctional nerds like me, only more so.
Continue reading

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Winter Wonders

We love Winter. We love to bake it (mince pies rule here, stollen is just too fiddly), we love to decorate it (paper stars all the way) and we most certainly love to eat it (another helping of buttery mash, anyone?).

So although the sun sets around 3.30pm these days, there can be no better excuse to grab one or all of the following duvet/tea/jaffa cakes and curl up with one of our Winter Wonders (roaring fire optional).

The Last Dragon Slayer – because more Jasper Fforde scribbles in the world can only be a good thing.  Be warned though, you’ll whip through it at the speed of light, so have another book ready and waiting. Such as…

The Crowfield Curse – a snow swept tale set in the fourteenth century with a twist of fantasy.  We can see the tv adaptation already, with Derek Jacobi at the top of the casting list.

Fallen Grace – Mary Hooper’s unique portrait of Victorian London.  You might want to add a box of tissues to the list above.

Hercule Poirots’ Christmas – because nothing says winter holidays like a murder mystery and where better to start than with the Queen of Crime herself, celebrating her 120th birthday this year.  Get those little grey cells working.

The Mystery of the Russian Ruby: A Pop-up Whodunnit – a charming, interactive crime mystery for younger readers. The stately home and rooms within literally spring off the page and alternate solutions guarantee re-reading.  Sadly out of print, but plenty on various market places and well worth it.

What will you be reading this holiday?

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