Monmouthshire’s community hubs will celebrate National Bookstart Week (6th – 12th June) with baby rhymes, story times and activities for under-fives to encourage families to pick up a good book this summer.  This year’s theme is ‘Under the Sea’.  Children who attend any of the events will receive a free copy of the picture book A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea by Jessica Law, and reading charity BookTrust has more than 450,000 copies to give away across the UK.

National Bookstart Week is an annual celebration of BookTrust’s flagship reading programme, Bookstart, which donates a free reading pack to every child in Wales in their first year and again after their second birthday.  The ethos of the charity is to remind families of the importance of reading for fun – even if it’s just for ten minutes a day.

Monmouthshire librarian, Fiona Ashley said: “I look forward to National Bookstart every year.  It’s a great opportunity to celebrate sharing books with small children and one of the most important bonding experiences parents and carers can share with youngsters.”

During the week thousands of free events around the country for babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers and their families will take place at libraries, children centres, nurseries and bookshops.  These will include stories, rhymes and lots of fun undersea activities to inspire families to read together.

Diana Gerald, Chief Executive of BookTrust said: “Making time to read with your children is so important because shared reading leads to a love of reading.  And we know that reading for pleasure has a dramatic impact on life outcomes – and this is as much about confidence and well-being as it is about educational achievements.

“Children who are read to every night start school a year ahead of those who are not and the gap only widens as they get older.  Quite simply, children who read for pleasure are happier, healthier and do better in life than those who don’t.”

Families should visit their nearest library or children’s centre to find out more about their local National Bookstart Week event.

The council’s library service is also launching its Bookstart Bookcrawl to persuade parents and carers of small children to borrow books from their local community hub, collecting a sticker for each visit and a lovely certificate every four visits.

Families unable to attend a local event can join in the fun at home, with plenty of undersea-themed arts and crafts and games on the Bookstart website. www.bookstart.org.uk