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Friday, October 30, 1998 Published at 13:38 GMT


Books for babies

Public libraries are being sent 180,000 guides

Parents are being urged to swap rattles for books to give their babies a head start in learning.

A literacy campaign organised by BBC Education with backing from the government's Basic Skills Agency and National Year of Reading is making available 200,000 free information packs with board books for parents and carers.

There is information and advice on the BBC Education Website, and short television films featuring Young Ones actor Adrian Edmondson as a baby.

"I've seen green things with wheels that go beep beep. I've seen strange creatures with horns that go moo. I've seen bright red things that go ring ring ... there's not a lot in life that could surprise me," says 'baby' Adrian, chewing a book.

[ image: Carol Smillie says reading is an opportunity for closeness with her young children]
Carol Smillie says reading is an opportunity for closeness with her young children
There will be five-minute readings from books by celebrities Jo Brand, Linford Christie, Sharron Davies, Vanessa Feltz and Dr Mark Porter.

Vanessa Feltz says: "I read to my children long before they could talk. Looking at books together is a great way of continuing the closeness of breast feeding.

"My biggest tip is that poetry makes the perfect bed-time reading."

There are fond memories for Jeremy Paxman - who is at the Spot stage with his young children.

"There's something wonderful about being a child, snuggled down in bed, and having a book read to you, but the great thing is that reading to children involves them using their minds as they create their own pictures."

In another programme, Griff Rhys Jones will be looking at the work of some children's authors.


BBC education says the intention is to reinforce the value of growing up with books and to offer help with reading activities.

The advice is that babies from a few months old will enjoy handling simple books, responding to pictures and listening to words - all of which helps with language development. Books can be dipped into - they do not have to be read in their entirety.

Even parents unsure of their own reading skills can make up words to go with pictures, to give their babies the idea of reading.

The campaign builds on a pilot scheme run by the educational charity Book trust. This offered a free book and advice pack to parents of babies in Birmingham as they were having health checks.

The children were tracked up to their first year at primary school and their literacy and numeracy performance was measured using baseline assessment procedures. A clear advantage was found in the children in the study compared to those who had not had an early exposure to books.

  • The UK freephone number to call for the information pack and board book is 0800 99 77 99.

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