About Bookstart

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Bookstart is a national programme that encourages parents and carers to enjoy books with children from as early an age as possible.

Bookstart gives the gift of free books to children twice in their early life, along with guidance materials for parents and carers.  More details about the packs and how they are gifted in Hampshire can be found on the next tab.

Never Too Young For A Book

Sharing books, looking at pictures, singing rhymes and playing cuddling games is a wonderful way to build a strong relationship with your child. It will help with the development of good language and listening skills, prepare your child for learning to read and give them a good preparation for starting school.

Borrow a book from your library – they have Board Books which are strong and easy to hold; nursery rhyme collections so you can sing with your child; and picture books which have few words and lots of beautiful illustrations for you to talk about. Babies can join the library from the day they are born and there are no charges to pay if a child under 5 damages a book.

There are so many different types of book available. Some books are exciting, funny and noisy and great to share with other children. A favourite book can have a calming effect on a small child, making it ideal to carry with you, ready to use in a waiting room, on a bus or in a queue. Sharing books at bed time is a gentle way to soothe a baby to sleep.

Sharing books about new situations which may be worrying to a child, such as a visit to the hospital or the arrival of a new baby in the family, can be reassuring and help to overcome their fears. Our ‘When a Book Might Help’ pages will give you some suggestions for books to use.


Fun and FREE Rhymetimes are organised in many libraries around the county. They aim to encourage parents and carers to share action songs and rhymes with babies from birth onwards. Toddlertimes and Storytimes are also available for slightly older children.


Bookstart for Babies

Bookstart for babies

The first free Bookstart pack is for babies aged 0 – 12 months. The pack consists of a purple zipped bag with a short handle (ideal for hanging on the handle of a buggy) containing two board books, a book of black and white images and a nursery rhyme poster.  Also included is a guide for parents and carers, ‘Babies Love Books’  which has tips about sharing books with babies, recommendations for other books to share and a £1.00 book token so you can go shopping for more books to share.

The Bookstart Baby packs are gifted by Health Visitors, usually at a health check or home visit. Different health visiting teams gift at different times during the child’s first year, so please talk to your Health Visitor to find out when you will receive your baby’s pack.

My Bookstart Treasure Chest

Treasure Chest pack

The second free pack is the Bookstart Treasure pack. It comes in a red and blue messenger bag (ideal for your young child to wear) and contains two picture books, drawing materials, and ‘Treasure: A Book of Ideas’ which has plenty of top tips and guidance for parents and carers about sharing books and having fun together.

In Hampshire the Treasure Chest is gifted by infant and primary schools as part of the induction into Year R.  This may be done at a home visit, new parents’ meeting, classroom visit or other occasion, as decided by the head teacher of each school.  This may be different to the gifting practice in neighbouring authorities.  Parents of Home Educated children can email the Bookstart Co-ordinator bookstart@hants.gov.uk to obtain the pack for their child.

Booktouch, Bookshine and Dual Language

Bookshine and Booktouch packs are available for children who have visual or hearing impairment in addition to the standard Bookstart packs and are available either for children aged 0 - 2 or 2 - 4 years.

To help families who do not use English as their first language, Bookstart produce books and guidance materials in a wide range of community languages.

For more information about any of these services, please email bookstart@hants.gov.uk or telephone Hantsdirect on 0845 6035631.

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Contact us

  • tel 0845 603 5631
  • email bookstart@hants.gov.uk
  • post c/o Hampshire Courier Service, Building 1 County Supplies, Bar End Industrial Estate, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23

Visit the Bookstart website for book recommendations, competitions and more useful tips