Ben gets called to Westminster

Calderdale’s Ben invited to address Parliament

Sharing the joy of stories, songs and rhymes with families is something that Ben Lawrence does every day as Calderdale Council’s Early Years Librarian and Bookstart Co-ordinator. But it’s not every day he gets to showcase his work in Parliament.

Ben was invited to speak at a reception for MPs in the House of Commons, due to the outstanding success of the Council’s work to engage children with books, rhymes and songs from birth. He talked about his role and the huge difference that libraries make to children and families across Calderdale.

The invite came from Booktrust – a national charity aiming to change lives through reading. They were so impressed with Ben’s work to promote their Bookstart scheme in Calderdale that they asked him to talk at their event, which had the theme ‘Reading Together Changes Lives’. The aim was to give MPs a deeper understanding of the support available for families, and how this can help tackle child poverty and educational disadvantage. 

Booktrust’s Chief Executive Viv Bird says:

“Reading together strengthens family bonds and helps children do better at school, whatever the family background. We know that children who are read to every day will be almost 12 months ahead of their age group when they start school. Even reading to them two or three times a week gives them a six-month head-start. This is why the work Ben and Calderdale Council help us to do is incredibly important, as they are making sure no child in Calderdale misses out on the life-changing benefits that reading can bring.


“When we were looking for a practitioner to explain the benefits of Bookstart and the work we do with families, Ben – who is an excellent role model for children of Calderdale – was an obvious choice. He is an enthusiastic and proactive coordinator who goes the extra distance to ensure his Bookstart Busy Babies sessions are beneficial to every family that attends them.”

Ben runs the popular Bookstart Busy Babies sessions in Brighouse, Halifax and Hebden Bridge libraries. They feature songs and rhymes for families with babies and toddlers and take place throughout the year.

Ben says:

“Families across Calderdale can really benefit from the sessions. They are a great way for parents to interact and bond with their children whilst teaching them important life skills. Songs and rhymes are the perfect introduction for young children to the exciting world of language and literature. When youngsters see the grown ups around them singing, they are encouraged to sing along and do the actions, developing their communication skills, coordination and imagination. Being with other people in a relaxed environment helps their social skills and confidence. Above all, it’s fun! Singing makes people happy, and the songs are easy to repeat at home.”

Families can also benefit from the Bookstart national book gifting programme, which gives a free pack of books, games and activity ideas to children aged 9 months and again at 36 months. Families in Calderdale can get their packs from any Calderdale Council library. Baby packs are also available from Calderdale health visitors and the pre-school pack from children’s centres and other early years settings.

Ben’s role is also to inspire families with children to use their local library more often. Youngsters can be registered with the library from birth, and there are lots of books and resources available for all ages.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, Cllr Marcus Thompson, says:

“The wide range of resources in our libraries means everyone has access to good-quality books and learning materials. We want people to actively use our libraries to encourage a lifelong love of language and literature. By offering free and low-cost services we’re doing our bit to make reading as accessible as possible, and expanding parents’ knowledge of what to read or sing to their children to help them develop. This also helps our aim of tackling child and family poverty. Reading improves literacy, which in turn opens up more doors – increased educational performance and more employment opportunities.”

Bookstart Busy Babies sessions take place at:

  • Halifax Central Library – Thursday mornings, 10.00am to 10.40am, and 11.00am to 11.40am
  • Hebden Bridge Library – Monday mornings, 11.00am to 11.40am
  • Brighouse Library – Tuesday mornings, 10.30am to 11.10am

For more information about Bookstart Busy Babies, Bookstart book packs or other library services for young children, head to the Libraries for children page on the Council’s website or contact Ben Lawrence on or 01422 392620.

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