GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Comhairle Choitcheann Teagaisg na h-Alba

4 Apr 2018

Catching the Bookbug

ailsa-galashan-100x100Ailsa Galashan, Communications Intern


“Hello,” I said in my best robot voice. “My name is Ailsa and I’m an intern at the General Teaching Council for Scotland.” This was not how I imagined my day at the annual Bookbug conference to go.

Bookbug is a programme run by Scottish Book Trust, supporting families to read, sing and play with their very young children. This year, Bookbug has looked into accessibility for reading within families who require more assistance or have additional needs. The aim is that more families will be able to engage with their children, and see both the physical and psychological benefits of reading.

Before I went to the event, I was aware of the importance of reading within a family environment; however, I also learnt a lot about how reading can evolve as a part of family life, and how children can use the experiences that they see in books as a tool to communicate with their family about the wider world.

Of course, there was a specific reason as to why I was talking about myself in a robot voice. I was taking part in one of the workshops: Using Bookbug as a Route for Growth with Social Work Involved Families. The discussion was around how families can get involved and learn a lot from each other through play. Speaking in a robot voice broke the ice, and made it easier to discuss the more complex issues around families involved with social work, and their relationship with reading. This workshop primarily focused on Bookbug for the Home Training, which is a flexible approach to engage families who would benefit from extra support.

Some parents remember rhyme and stories from their own childhood, however others do not
We were shown how Bookbug had worked with different families, and how the use of books, language and communication has helped them within their situation.“Some parents remember rhyme and stories from their own childhood, however others do not,” Jan Anderson, Speech and Language Therapist and Bookbug Trainer, explained. “Parents don’t need to have advanced reading skills either, it’s about sharing books together.” Book sharing was discussed further in a wider context. It helps to build strong relationships between the parent and child and can also be effective even in situations where the child does not live with the parent.  

Storytelling also allows children to see other areas of family life. In another workshop, Into the Dark Woods, Debi Gliori, a children’s writer and illustrator, described how she highlights family life within her children’s books, and how this teaches children about the world around them. She does this specifically within her story Dragon Loves Penguin, in which a dragon brings up a penguin as its own. This could be hinting at adoption, but also is portraying realistic family life within a children’s story. “Reading about other families helps us identify with other people,” she explained.

Reading about other families helps us identify with other people

Gliori also mentioned that reading at bedtime can help children bring up concerns they may have to their parents. Her story, The Scariest Thing of All, is about a rabbit who has crippling anxiety and fear of the world around it. Gliori explained that reading books to children about complex issues can make it easier for children to ask questions or have concerns, because they are not feeling that this is a reality to them. At the end of the book, the rabbit is able to “face his biggest monsters”, and return back to his rabbit home with his family, where he feels safest.

In the final moments of the conference, I heard Joseph Coelho, a children’s author, recite his story Luna Loves Library Day. I thought that this was great because the story highlighted some of the most important issues in children’s books that I had learnt from the conference that day. Coelho’s story is focused around a little girl who visits her dad once a week and goes to the library with him. Coelho, who grew up in a single parent family, felt that it was important to represent all types of families in his stories so that all children have the opportunity to feel represented. At the end of the story, Luna has several books she has collected from the library, and reading them reminds her of the fun day that she had with her dad. This reminded me of the information I had learnt from the first workshop, and how books are a key part of family life and a tool to build conversation.

I walked away from the conference having learnt a lot more about books and the importance of storytelling with young children. It’s clear that books and rhyme are a tool to open up conversation between parents and children, regardless of what the conversation is!

Bookbug has been doing great work making reading accessible for all families. There is more information about this at:

For information regarding Bookbug, and what Scottish Book Trust are doing in your area, visit: