Scotland on Sunday: Christmas Campaign - the value of books

Laura Robertson, a senior early years officer at a nursery in Fife, has seen first-hand the work of Scottish Book Trust – and what the gift of a book can bring a child.

I’ve known Isla* since she was six weeks old.

Before lockdown when she was just about to turn three, her gran, a child minder and huge fan of Bookbug, had been attending the song and rhyme sessions at our nursery and at her local library. However, Isla was struggling. She had no communication or language skills, she wasn’t interacting with other children and had been referred to a health visitor. Other children in the class were already talking, playing with one another and shouting out which book they’d like to hear. Her mum and gran said she was ‘not a child that easily smiles’.

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Scotland on Sunday: Scottish Book Trust - Children's Books Guide
Bookbug for the Home is a flexible approach that can be used to support mums, dads and carers with sharing songs, rhymes and stories with their children. For more details visit https://bit.ly/3F1UWUb

That was the point when lockdown hit and the family could no longer attend nursery or the library and they were really concerned for Isla’s development. They found online sessions scary and didn’t join in at first.

Then Scottish Book Trust asked us to take part in a pilot as part of their Bookbug for the Home programme. I persuaded Isla’s family to try it. It meant Isla would be gifted the same books, puppets and toys to have at home as we have in the nursery and we could use them online together.

After just four weeks of rhyming, singing and reading books together, there was a complete transformation. Isla started babbling along with the songs and her eyes lit up when she saw Bookbug. She began waving her star to tell me that she wanted to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Her favourite book of all was ‘That’s not my car’ and she began to move her hand over the page at the same time as me. Then, during a game of peekaboo with a scarf, Isla let out a hearty giggle for the first time ever, bringing her gran to tears.

The family told me that receiving the books and toys from Scottish Book Trust at a time when they had no access to them, was a lifeline to get them through a tough time.

Isla is absolutely thriving and has not stopped giggling since. She now has a zest for books and always has one with her

(*name changed)

Laura Robertson is a Senior Early Years Officer at a nursery in Fife

Scotland on Sunday has joined forces with Scottish Book Trust to raise money to gift children – whose families are using foodbanks this Christmas – brand new books.

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