Children who have a favourite book are more likely to become confident readers. Having books at home makes a real difference to babies' and children’s love of stories and books, and gives them a flying start in learning to talk and read. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library (DPIL) was set up to increase the number of children’s books in families’ homes. Each child receives a free book every month from birth to five, delivered directly to them at their home address.
The Peep Imagination Library in Oxford, sponsored by a local donor, started in April 2014. It is offered to all the families that we (at the Peeple Centre) work with in south Oxford (the Leys and Littlemore), and 326 children currently receive their free book every month.
In the first year, Sally Smith (CEO) and Helen Stroudley (Project Manager), presented at the DPIL forum in Scunthorpe, North Yorkshire, about how the library supports our Peep work. We’ll be attending their 2016 conference in Nottingham on 9th June so do so hello if you’re there!
Inviting families to join
We reach families in a variety of ways:
Home visits: The Hamilton Trust funds us to do antenatal home visits. The Leys Children’s Centre funds us to visit all families with a new baby or who are new to the area (who have given their consent for a visit via their health visitor). During these home visits we share information about the local children’s centre and the Peep groups available in the area, so we added the opportunity to register with the Peep Imagination Library.
Child health clinic drop-in and Peep groups: We share information via our weekly term-time drop-in session at a local child health clinic (Early Explorers), as well as local antenatal and baby Peep groups.
Peep Pre-school: In June we held a Peter Rabbit event and invited all the Pre-school families to attend and sign up for their Peep Imagination Library journey, which was extremely popular. The Pre-school also receive a book every month, so the children see the book in Pre-school and at home. The Pre-school staff can extend the book with activities in the sessions.
Partnership work: At Peeple we have built up good links with partner agencies and other professionals such as health visitors, sharing what we do and how we register the families. For example, one health visitor is working with a traveller family that had no fixed address, so the books had nowhere to be delivered. We arranged for the books to be delivered to the health centre and the health visitor delivers the books on her visits.
Word of mouth: Free books are a great way to engage with families. More families are hearing about the local Imagination Library through word of mouth, so they are starting to contact us when they have a baby.
What do the children receive?
Dolly Parton Imagination Library works with Penguin books, and the book list is chosen to provide a range of high quality, age-appropriate books. Eight weeks after a baby is registered they receive the first book. We have started giving out the ‘welcome book’, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, when the parent registers so that they have a book straight away. The families really enjoy this first book - and the welcome letter from Dolly Parton inside the front cover. The books come addressed to the child every month and continue until the child is 5 years old, when they receive the graduation book. This means the child could have a library of over 60 books.
We collect feedback from the parents, children and practitioners; the following is some of the most recent:
Feedback from the families
‘Her face lights up each time a book arrives.’ Peep Pre-school parent
‘We love reading the books together.’ Peep group parent
‘It is always such a delight to receive one of the imagination Library books. All the family reads it. She has her own shelf where we now keep her books. Normally she sleeps in bed with one of her books so when she wakes up she is enjoying it.’ Peep parent
‘We have been sent some really nice books and books are really expensive so these are useful and all relevant for his age. Also his sister enjoys reading them with him’ Peep baby group parent
‘The children feel special when the parcel comes with their name on it. He has a special bag for his books. He and his sister put the new one in the bag and they count how many there are.’ Parent on a home visit
‘I think this scheme is valuable for reading and writing skills to start in a family environment that perhaps are not book worms.’ Peep Pre-school parent
‘When my book comes, I say – thank you Dolly Parton’ Peep Pre-School child aged 4 years
‘We love the books we get as my son likes books now and we always carry one with us. Books can cost a lot of money so it’s not something we can buy. It’s good for learning too.’ Peep group parent
‘We have been introduced to new books we would never have tried. My son has 4 absolute favourite books and 3 of them come from you! Thank you. He loves them.’ Peep Pre-school parent
Feedback from practitioners
‘I love hearing the parents talk about the books. The babies in my group love book sharing time and I’m sure they will always have a love of books – how lovely is that!’ Peep practitioner
‘The books are a great talking point and we have really good discussions in the group about the latest book that has arrived and what the children like about it.’ Peep practitioner
‘One mum in our group said ‘it’s like winning the lottery, and I never win anything usually’. This mum has been having a hard time and she really loved the opportunity for her baby.’ Peep practitioner
‘The parents that come to the children centre talk about the books they have received, they get so excited when a new book arrives.’ Children’s centre practitioner
Setting up your own Imagination Library
If you’re interested in setting up an Imagination Library in your area then check out the DPIL UK website for further info. It really complements our local Peep work and the families love it. If you already have a local Imagination Library then do get in touch with us if you have any other questions about using it alongside Peep.