Belfast Harbour and BookTrust celebrate National Bookstart Week

Local children gather to explore outdoors with reading charity BookTrust

Last week, BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity celebrated its annual National Bookstart Week.

The launch event on 5 June held at Streamvale Farm in conjunction with Fane Street Nursery School and Belfast Harbour saw children in Belfast come together to celebrate National Bookstart Week and 25 years of BookTrust’s flagship book gifting programme Bookstart. The gathering in Northern Ireland’s only open Dairy Farm kicked off a week of celebrations up and down the country, celebrating all that’s great about the charity’s flagship book gifting programme.

National Bookstart Week (5-11 June) is an annual celebration of BookTrust’s Bookstart programme, which is in its 25th year. This year, BookTrust partnered with Hodder Children’s Books, part of the Hachette Children’s Group, to gift 450,000 hard copies of Ellie Sandall’s Everybunny Dance! to children across the country through National Bookstart Week (5-11 June) with 4,000 copies being distributed to children in Northern Ireland.

Since 1992, BookTrust has gifted over 34 million books to children across the country through Bookstart. Since 2015, BookTrust has been supported by Belfast Harbour to ensure over 2000 families in Belfast have had access to Bookstart Packs to enable them to read together and develop a love of stories and books. 

Parents, staff and 25 children from Fane Street Nursery school got together in the Swallows Barn at Streamvale Farm to celebrate National Bookstart Week and 25 years of the Bookstart programme. Complete with puppets and percussion, there was plenty of singing and dancing as children were read the Everybunny Dance! story and took part in a fun filled rhymetime session led by a local librarian. Much to their delight the children got to visit the rest of farm, take away their very own bunny masks to make at home and cuddle Holly, Molly and Peter, the resident rabbits.  

Set in woodland and country, Everybunny Dance! is a beautifully illustrated story with themes of empathy and friendship. It’s full of music, dance and positive messaging. Everybunny Dance! has also been developed into an interactive online storybook. Popular TV presenter and Radio DJ Lauren Laverne voiced the online book, to bring this year’s National Bookstart Week title to life. The interactive version is device enabled so you can read/watch on the go and is also available to watch as a British Sign Language video.

Liz Canning, National Development Manager of Book Trust Northern Ireland said:

“We are delighted to be celebrating 25 years of Bookstart in Northern Ireland and we are privileged to receive both support and funding from Belfast Harbour, to help us continue to encourage more children.

“This year’s theme ‘Let’s Explore Outdoors’ was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone and we are overwhelmed with how many families and communities have come together to make it such a wonderful celebration.”

Jenni Barkley, Communications and Corporate Responsibility Manager said:

“Belfast Harbour is thrilled to be involved in supporting BookTrust’s continuous efforts. Their 25 years of work has encouraged thousands of children to take up reading and experience the joy received from it.

“The unique and interactive storytelling experience at Streamvale Farm gave those attending the ability to see the stories come to life which is a priceless and mesmerising opportunity.”

This National Bookstart Week, there are over 100 celebration events happening across Northern Ireland with 4,000 families expected to attend reading and rhythm and rhyme sessions at libraries and Sure Starts. Why not hop along and join in or check out Libraries NI to find out where your local Bookstart celebration events are happening.