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Christchurch City Council Media Release 27 March 2000

Celebrating Books For Babies

Canterbury Public Library will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Books for Babies project on Tuesday 11 April.

Initiated in 1990, International Literacy Year, the Books for Babies project has delivered nearly 50,000 packs to date. The project, which provides every newborn baby in Christchurch with a board book and library enrolment pack, has attracted international attention.

"We have led the world when it comes to early literacy," said Bill Nagelkerke, the library’s Children’s and Young Adults’ Services Co-ordinator. "To the best of our knowledge, Christchurch was the first city in the world to provide such a comprehensive programme for introducing newborn babies to books."

Barrie Wade, Professor of English in Education at the University of Birmingham, UK, recently visited New Zealand and highly commended the Books for Babies project. Professor Wade has been instrumental in researching a similar scheme, Bookstart, in Birmingham, which is now being adopted nationwide. His research concluded: ‘The strong suggestion is that those children introduced to books as babies have a head start when it comes to schooling.’

Canterbury Public Library has recently conducted interviews with a selection of families who have received the Books for Babies pack over the 10-year period. The results clearly indicate that receiving the pack prompted parents to enrol their children at the library much earlier than they would have otherwise. One parent, Rachel, believes that "the pack has encouraged all three [of her] children to read and look at illustrations. The project instills in children the joy of reading," she says.

The results of the interviews are being incorporated into a new suite of web pages dedicated to the project. The pages will be launched at the Books for Babies 10th anniversary celebrations on Tuesday 11 April. Christchurch Mayor, Garry Moore, will preside over proceedings, which will include a party for the selected families, project sponsors, Councillors, volunteers and local authors.

"This is an exciting milestone for the library," said Mr Nagelkerke. "It reflects the remarkable achievements of the Books for Babies project, and paves the way for ensuring that the city’s children continue to receive a firm foundation in books and reading."

In 1998 the Books for Babies project received the Nada Beardsley Literacy Award from the Canterbury Council of the Reading Association.

The project is largely funded by Canterbury Public Library through the Christchurch City Council. Support grants have also been received from Altrusa, the Reading Association and Community Trust. In this year’s funding round, the Community Trust awarded the project a donation of $4000.

Media invitation

Media representatives are invited to attend the Books for Babies 10th anniversary birthday party on Tuesday 11 April 9 at 11am at the Central Children’s Library.

Bill Nagelkere, responsible for the Books for Babies project, is available for interview.

Photo and filming opportunities can be arranged.

Further information:

Christchurch City Libraries ~ Media Releases index

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