‘Free books for babies’ programme extended to Brussels

Summary

The Boekstart project provides free packages to new parents to get their children excited about reading from an early age

Long-term benefits

A cultural programme that encourages parents to instil a love of reading in their children has been rolled out in Brussels.

Sven Gatz, the Flemish minister for culture, youth and Brussels, has decided to extend the Boekstart project, which makes it easy for parents to introduce their children to reading from a very early age. Thanks to a collaboration with Brussels politician Pascal Smet – a member of the board of the Flemish Community Commission, which is contributing financially – the initiative is now available to new parents in nine Brussels municipalities.

Through the Boekstart programme, parents receive a package for their new baby containing a tactile book and information about reading initiatives in their local library. Once the child is 15 months old, they’re invited to collect a second package from their library with two more books and further information and tips about reading.

“We are enouraging parents to read aloud to their children and visit the library early on,” Gatz said. “Investing in literacy and reading pleasure before children reach school age brings important advantages for both personal development and social engagement.”

The programme was launched in Limburg and West Flanders in 2005; as of 1 July this year there are now 204 municipalities in Flanders and Brussels taking part in the initiative, including Jette, Evere, Laken, Ukkel, Sint-Pieters-Woluwe, Elsene, Oudergem, Sint-Joost-ten-Node and Sint-Jans-Molenbeek.

The Boekstart project is coordinated by the non-profit Iedereen Leest (Everybody Reads) and offers a range of other activities for families, such as information sessions, training and newsletters.