Claire Gardiner is a community link worker in north east Edinburgh. In her blog, she talks about how a chat with one parent about their family’s bedtime routine led to her joining up with Books for Kids and spreading the joy of reading to hundreds of children across the city.
“You are never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.” Dr Suess
A consultation just before the turn of the year led me on a path to sourcing nearly ONE THOUSAND children’s books for the surgeries I cover.
I met a stressed parent, who was struggling with sleep and they were feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. We explored some strategies, however I enquired particularly about their bedtime routine and what the time before bed looks like for this family. I asked about story time as there is so much evidence about the value to families of spending this time together with a book. It contributes to relationship building, as well as having a positive and calming impact on our central nervous system, which in turn helps us to get ready for sleep.
This parent sadly had no books at all in the house and the book bug books provided by the Health Visiting Team years before had been damaged and thrown out. We spoke about using the library but given how little confidence this parent had, getting to the library felt quite a big step. I agreed I would look into sourcing some books specifically for the family and get back to them.
I reached out to several places online and was thrilled to receive a bundle of brand new books from The Scottish Book Trust which were able to be given as Christmas presents to the children.
I also received a very quick reply from a website I just accidently stumbled across, called Books for Kids and I really had no idea what was about to happen. I got a very friendly email offering “a big stash of books, tote bags that can be given as a gift” which I thought sounded terrific!
During a lovely email exchange with Alison McLuckie, the founder of Books For Kids, she explained that I could receive hundreds of books, separated into age and stage appropriate bundles and that I could set up a mini-library in my waiting room or public area in the surgery. These would be topped up throughout the year and would give more children access to reading. Result! While I was awaiting the delivery I could not believe it when Alison herself came to the surgery with a boot full of 988 mint condition books.
It turns out more than 1 in 5 families do not have books at home. Books For Kids is working hard to reduce that number through the distribution of books and setting up “our wee library” in various places, like health settings and community centres across the Lothians and Fife. I am so thrilled to have partnered up with his incredible project, as it means that all the people served by our GP practices can take home a book (or several!) from their visit to the surgery.
I have set up three stations across the two surgeries I cover and have been able to do some positive collaboration with the Health Visiting Team. They usually provide the Book Bug books but said the access to the wide range of children’s books means they can provide more and have taken books to older siblings in the families they support.
This initiative all started from some creative thinking to help one family sleep better and has now turned into a huge opportunity to spread the joy of reading to hundreds of children and families across Edinburgh.
Claire Gardiner is a community link worker with the Edinburgh Community Link Worker Network. She is employed by Caring in Craigmillar in the north east of the city and works across two GP practices.