National Bookstart Week reflections: Let’s Explore Outdoors

So National Bookstart Week is over for another year. As someone who works a lot with Under Fives and has a five-year-old and four-year-old at home, I have to say that it is always one of the highlights in my yearly calendar,

It’s a brilliant opportunity to invite nursery groups and families into the library and the free resources that Booktrust send are always excellent quality – as somebody who is not the best at coming up with craft activities, having a simple yet lovely craft provided is always particularly appreciated, and it’s always great to be able to give away the free books and rhyme sheets.

This year’s theme, Let’s Explore Outdoors, was probably my favourite to date as it combined two of my absolute favourite things – reading and being outside. I was also particularly lucky in that, right in the middle of a rain sandwich, last Wednesday morning was dry and bright in Bolton (if perhaps a little breezy), and the outdoor event we’d planned at Smithills Hall could actually go ahead outdoors. It was wonderful to share Everybunny Dance and other stories, sing songs and play instruments on the beautiful lawns at the hall and we were even joined by some bunnies and guinea pigs from the local farm, which made the occasion extra special.

In total I led four Bookstart Week sessions last week and thoroughly enjoyed every one. There were lots of other events across our service and feedback from library colleagues, nurseries and families about National Bookstart Week is always really positive.

Then yesterday, despite it being what Winnie-the-Pooh would call a rather blustery day, my daughters spent almost all of it playing outside with their friends. Partway through the afternoon they came rushing into the house, breathlessly declaring that they needed a book. They grabbed one each and ran back outside where they proceeded to sit with three of their friends on the drive, each engrossed in their own book. It was a really lovely sight to see and got me thinking about some of the picture books we’ve shared together over the years, especially those with an outdoorsy theme. These are some of our favourites:

what small rabbit heard

What Small Rabbit Heard by Sheryl Webster & Tim Warnes

Small Rabbit doesn’t want to go for a walk but Big Rabbit isn’t taking no for an answer. They get wrapped up and head outdoors – but the wind is blowing hard and Big Rabbit’s instructions get lost on the breeze, with some very funny results. Who knew windy walks could be so much fun?

stick man


Stick Man by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

We are huge Julia Donaldson fans in our house (who isn’t?) and Stick Man is a particular favourite, with his quest to get back to the family tree. Perfect for children who love finding sticks, and grown-ups who never knew you could feel so much love for one!



Shark in the Park Shark in the Park by Nick Sharratt

“Timothy Pope, Timothy Pope, is looking through his telescope…and THIS is what he sees!”

My go-to book for story sessions with younger children, this also works brilliantly for children with English as a second language. It’s a visual delight and so interactive, with an exciting element of surprise. It also lends itself really well to a whole range of craft activities – make a telescope and go shark-spotting in your own park or make one of these brilliant shark headbands:

we're going on a bear hunt


We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury

An absolute classic and a favourite to recite on family walks through the woods. We’re NOT scared!


Everybunny Dance Everybunny Dance by Ellie Sandall

This year’s featured National Bookstart Week title, Everybunny Dance is a charming tale of bunnies who love to play and a fox who just wants a friend. Great for reading outside with instruments, dancing around and hiding behind bushes from the fox. You can listen to Lauren Laverne read Everybunny Dance here:

There are loads more brilliant outdoors themed books – please leave a comment to tell us your favourites.

Well done to Booktrust and all the library staff that always work so hard to make National Bookstart Week such a great success. Roll on 2018!






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