Press release

Free books for children

Education Secretary Michael Gove and Chief Executive of Booktrust Viv Bird outline plans and funding for the future of bookgifting.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Education Secretary Michael Gove today confirmed that children in England will continue to receive free books at key stages of their childhood to instill a love of stories and reading.

The free bookgifting scheme will be delivered by the successful Booktrust charity with Government investment valuing £13.5 million over two years - half the cost of the previous scheme.

The new bookgifting programme will remain a universal offer, but will be enhanced by new elements offering targeted support for disadvantaged children and families. The programme will give all children up to the age of 11 access to books from an early age and will help contribute towards their literacy and learning skills.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

A lifetime love of books, stories and rhymes starts in the earliest days of a child’s life, and intensifies throughout their childhood and beyond. This scheme will help all children to develop a love for books and will crucially provide extra support to address the needs of children who live with disadvantage.

I am extremely confident that Booktrust, with whom we’ve worked closely to secure an excellent funding package over the next two years, will use their wealth of experience and expertise to deliver a bookgifting scheme that makes a real difference to children and families, and is sustainable in the longer term.

Chief Executive of Booktrust Viv Bird said:

We are pleased that the Department for Education is to continue its strong partnership with Booktrust and publishers in funding the bookgifting programme. This announcement reflects our shared aspiration to inspire a love of reading, and to offer more choice and support to the most disadvantaged children and families.

Working closely with our partners Booktrust will ensure the continued delivery of a universal offer in a cost effective way and also create new offers targeted to those most in need. This will mean that as well as receiving free books for children to read for pleasure, schools with a high proportion of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds will be invited to join the programme.

We are tremendously grateful for the support we have received from publishers, authors, local authorities, libraries, health officials, schools and children’s centres and look forward to consulting closely with all of our partners about the shape and details of the programme.

The schemes are:

  • Bookstart Baby (0 to12 months) - universal offer
  • Bookstart Corner (12 to 30 months) - targeted through Children’s Centres
  • Bookstart Treasure Bag (3 to 4 years) - universal offer
  • Booktime (4 to 5 years, Reception year) - universal and enhanced by a targeted Primary Programme for Reception age and Year 1 children
  • Booked Up (11 to 12 years, Year 7) - universal and enhanced by a targeted Secondary Programme for children in years 7 and 8

There are also titles for children with additional special needs, as part of the Bookstart, Booktime and Booked Up arrangements.

Working closely with Booktrust, the new offer builds on the previous scheme with additional targeted provision for the most disadvantaged children and families. This will include working with a number of schools serving the most disadvantaged children to provide additional support from Booktrust which will focus on three main areas:

  • maintaining the universal offer for all families with babies 0 to 12 months and at three years old encouraging all families to nurture their child’s love of books and reading - we know a good home-learning environment is shown to be important for children’s development and linked to unlocking social mobility
  • a strong new offer for families with toddlers aged 12 to 30 months (Bookstart Corner) accessed only through Sure Start children’s centres to help us do more to ensure that the families in greatest need benefit.
  • building on universal bookgifts for children in reception and Year 7, a new targeted offer will provide extra resources for particularly disadvantaged schools, to help raise standards of literacy among those pupils who are often at risk of under-attaining, supporting those who may be growing up without access to books to achieve their potential.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Booktrust will receive £7.5 million in 2011-12 and £6 million in 2012-2013.

  2. The Government will work closely with Booktrust to ensure the scheme gets off on a strong footing.

  3. The Government will monitor the progress in Year 1 closely to ensure that we can achieve the best value for money possible.

  4. About Booktrust - Booktrust is an independent charity dedicated to encouraging people of all ages and cultures to engage with books. The written word underpins all our activity and enables us to fulfill our vision of inspiring a lifelong love of books for all. Booktrust is responsible for a number of successful national reading promotions, sponsored book prizes and creative reading projects aimed at encouraging readers to discover and enjoy books. These include the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Children’s Laureate, the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize and the national bookgifting programmes including Bookstart, which gives free books to babies and toddlers as well as guidance materials for parents and carers.

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Updates to this page

Published 25 February 2011