Last reviewed 13 December 2019

Many nurseries and pre-schools will receive an annual allocation of Bookstart Treasure Gift envelopes to distribute to their three- to four-year-olds within their provision. Liz Hodgman, an experienced childcare practitioner, suggests that rather than just handing them out to child and parent at pick-up time, with some planning these packs can provide a great resource for engaging parents within the provision and improving the home learning environment.

What is it?

Each pack contains a picture book that has been chosen as it is great to share plus a parent friendly booklet with tips and ideas for reading together.

Working with your provisions literacy lead or pre-school room leader plan how you are going to distribute the packs to the appropriate children through joint sessions with parents. You may have to organise several events at different times to allow for working parents to access them.

Get everyone involved

Invite parents to come along, make sure you give plenty of notice and send reminders out through texts, notes in book bags and newsletters. Linking the session to an informal parents evening where parents can speak to their child’s keyworker about progress and view their artwork, etc might help to engage more families.

Get planning … and act!

Plan a really interactive sharing of the picture book in the pack (they do change from year to year). Consider what props you might be able to use and resources that you could make. How are you going to get the parents interacting with the storytelling as well as the children? Some parents may not have experienced interactive storytelling so this can really inspire them to change their own sharing of books at home. Practice reading the story out loud before the session, so that you are really familiar with the story and the rhymes. This will enable you to really emphasise the rhymes and keywords.

Next, plan an activity for the parents and children to do together related to the book. Depending on how long you have planned for the event and the budget you have available will dictate the complexity of the activity. For example, a simple activity for the current book (2016) Don’t Call Me Sweet by Smriti Prasadam-Halls, Angela Rozelaar (Illustrator) could be to paint, collage or colour a cut out monster and stick to a straw to make a puppet. This can be then used when sharing the story. If you have allocated two hours for the session you might consider a longer project, for example making story boxes with the children and parents. Ask for shoe boxes to be donated in advance of the event and gather resources that could be used to decorate and fill the boxes. A variety of props in the box can then be used when the parent/carer shares the story at home with the child. Props that are sensory work really well as they help to introduce adjectives into the child’s language (describing words).

End the session with another reading of the story, this time with the children and parents using some of the resources they have made during the session. This should help parents to be more confident in their own storytelling at home. If there is time add in some related songs and rhymes or ask the children for their favourites. Finally, give out the Bookstart Treasure Gift envelopes to each child to take home.

Some provisions add items or information sheets to the Bookstart packs. This could include photocopied templates to make puppets of the main characters, suggestions for related crafts or the words to linked nursery rhymes and songs. Depending on your provisions budget and local levels of deprivation, you could add in small packets of crayons or pencils, etc.


It would provide really good evidence to Ofsted if you evaluated the impact of your sessions a few weeks later. This can be done by asking parents about the session and then recording their responses or developing a simple questionnaire that could be sent home to each family that attended. You could also do an online survey using one of the free tools (SurveyMonkey for example).

Use the questionnaires to find out if they enjoyed the session and have shared the book/used the props at home and if so how often? Do they feel more confident in reading with their child as a result of the session? Add some photographs taken at the events to your report and include information on it in your annual self-evaluation document.

As with all activities the staff team should reflect on how the session went, how effective was the learning for the children and the parents? What worked well? And what improvements could be made before delivering the next ones?

If you have children who do not have English as their first language, then you should approach the Bookstart Co-ordinator for your borough and ask about dual language books.

For provisions where there are children who are deaf, have visual impairments or conditions affecting their fine motor skills, there are additional specialist Bookstart packs available.

  • Bookshine is for children who are deaf and includes two books, a rhyme place mat with baby signs and a bookmark with British Sign Language.

  • Booktouch is for children who are blind or partially sighted and includes two touch and feel books, a Bookstart Rhymetimes CD and booklet and lots of guidance around sharing books with children with visual impairments.

  • Bookstart Star is for those children who have conditions affecting their fine motor skills. The pack contains a touch and feel book, board book and finger puppets.

The unseen benefits

These sessions also provide a really good opportunity to get to know the parents better and this could result in signposting parents to local support, for example their local children’s centre. Where a provision has a good link with their local children’s centre they may be able to help support the session by providing some resources or a member of staff to help facilitate.