The Bluecoat has launched a groundbreaking Baby Book Club for babies aged 3-12 months in a bid to aid child development and bring new parents together.
The pioneering pilot came about after a new mum asked staff at the Bluecoat, Liverpool’s centre for contemporary arts, whether they could provide a regular educational activity for parents with very young babies.
After carrying out research, Bec Fearon, Head of Engagement at the Bluecoat, found a real need for a book club that was tailored to the under-ones.
The ten-week course is designed by arts practitioners such as Roger Hill to help new parents to develop their reading skills and techniques while encouraging their babies to engage with different books. Each session includes discussion and sharing time, book recommendations and reviews, individual and group reading, and fun activities linked to the weekly core story.
A special visit to Liverpool Central Library where parents had the opportunity to explore the Children’s Library with their babies is also a feature of the course, which is supported by the City of Readers campaign, funded by Liverpool Learning Partnership.
Bec said: “After speaking with the new mum and thinking creatively about what we could provide for parents like her, we found that there are limited opportunities for parents with young babies to access groups that specifically encourage them to enjoy books together.
“The majority of existing groups for babies use song, rhyme and sign. Those that more actively involve books are generally aimed at toddler-aged children. Although song and rhyme are really important, we are keen to explore family reading at the earliest possible stage.
“Evidence published by the American Academy of Paediatrics earlier this year stated that parents should read to their children from infancy in order to help children to develop their language, cognitive, and emotional development.
“As well as the positive developmental benefits for babies, our weekly sessions provide the opportunity for new parents to meet.”
Book club participant Annie MacLean, whose baby Betsy was eight months old when she started attending said: “The Baby Book Club has introduced books I’d never heard of and reminded me of ones I loved when I was young. I have found the sessions exploring inventive ways to get more out of books really useful and have easily put them into practice at home, making reading time even more fun.”
The Bluecoat already attracts a significant number of families with babies and children. Their diverse programme provides a variety of free family activities and events to encourage families and children to visit and engage with the arts and the garden is a popular haven in the city centre.
Once the pilot ends in March, Bec plans to take the book club into some of the city’s neighbourhoods where the Bluecoat already runs arts activities for children and families.
Bec said: “We will be raising funds for this in the new year and I am really excited about the impact the project could have.”
Baby Book Club takes place each Tuesday at the Bluecoat, between 9.30-11am. Booking is essential as numbers limited. Please note that this is a course so booking entitles you to a space on all 10 sessions. Email anna.jt@thebluecoat or call 0151 702 7761 to book a place.