Nearly 60% of families do not own a single baby book until they receive their first packs from Bookstart, research carried out on behalf of Booktrust indicates.
According to the research, carried out by ICM and The Fatherhood Institute, 57% of families do not own a baby book before receiving the Bookstart early reading packs, with 75% of parents reporting sharing books with their babies as a direct result of receiving the packs.
Bookstart is now consulting with health professionals to explore ways of reaching families with Bookstart packs at an earlier age.
Bookstart chief executive Viv Bird said: "The enjoyable routine of sharing books, stories, songs and rhymes with babies is vital in building pre-literacy skills as well as providing important 'cuddle' time. These findings—whilst worrying—are also a validation of the continued importance of Bookstart as it celebrates its 20th year."
Booktrust is currently seeking a funding package that will at least sustain its current government grant of £6m a year, having been handed a 50% funding cut from the Department for Education in 2011, and a further cut of 20% in 2012. The grant funds Bookstart, as well as the Booktime programme for 4-5-year-olds, and provides free books for libraries in every secondary school.
The current DfE funding contract for Bookstart runs until the end of March 2013.
The charity is this week marking 20 years of Bookstart with National Bookstart Week [11th June to 17th June], with more than 5,000 family events taking place. A Bookstart 20 campaign is running throughout the year, which asks people to pledge to share 20 books in 2012. Figures including HRH, The Duchess of Cornwall, children's laureate Julia Donaldson and Michael Morpurgo have made the pledge.