Tina Fellows, an early years literacy officer and storyteller for Lambeth libraries, is this year’s winner of the Book Trust’s Rhymetime award.
It recognises people for work that goes above and beyond the call of duty to engage parents and children … running specialist sessions and much more.
Tina organises Rhymetimes sessions at several places in Lambeth, including Brixton and West Norwood libraries and the Myatt’s Field community centre.
Sessions involve a mix of songs, rhymes, rhythm and movement. They provide an opportunity to share games, novelty books and toys. They are also a friendly, inclusive space for parents and carers to meet, mingle and make new friends.
Undeterred by the temporary closure of Streatham library for a £1.4m refurbishment, Tina set up a Rhymetime in a local pub so that families had something to take their children to.
She says Rhymetimes can offer parents and carers, who sometimes feel isolated, both learning and emotional support opportunities.
Tina won nominations from families at all the sites she visits. Many mentioned the fun and energy of her Rhymetime sessions, as well as the gentle personal touch which makes them feel connected to other parents and carers.
Said one: “Tina is someone who cares about literacy, about inclusion and makes everyone feel welcome. She has helped me more than she knows. And, in turn, my son.”
Several told how contact with Tina and other families had helped them through difficult times.
Tina is expert at demonstrating to families how they can use rhymes and songs with their children, as well as introducing them to wider information about the Bookstart scheme – now in its 25th year – and the help and resources they can find in libraries and children’s centres.
Tina said: “It is wonderful to have won, and I thank all who nominated me.
“The collective work of Lambeth library staff, Bookstart coordinator Abibat Olulode and head of Lambeth libraries Susanna Barnes is the reason Wriggle and Rhyme story sessions are of quality, valued and enjoyed within libraries and community settings such as The Railway Tea Rooms.
“To win has been an ‘Oh My Goodness’ mega moment!
“With a quality seal of approval from Book Trust, we can provide training to other local authorities and community groups.
“As an early years literacy officer and storyteller, I provide rhyme and story sessions throughout the borough that are inclusive, interactive and fun.
“I gift the various Bookstart packs, provide a home visiting service and encourage library membership for all ages.
“I love what I do because I believe in the importance of literacy for all and aim to provide a little positive difference to the lives of families I am fortunate to meet.
“Bookstart has provided many wonderful moments of gifting – when a baby looks at a book and the parent realises that their baby is enjoying and learning from a book.
“BookTrust brings clarity to the importance of early literacy for babies and young children and the positive benefits it brings.
“An often-heard phrase in sessions is: ‘You are your child’s first and most consistent teacher, they learn from you’.
“The gift of reading that parents and carers can give to their children is priceless, it is a gift for life.”