Families welcomed a special visitor to a recent Bookbug session in Renfrewshire.

Natalie Don MSP dropped by the Erskine Library to help staff sing songs and nursery rhymes.

The Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise took part in the storytelling activities as part of Bookbug Scotland Week.

Ms Don told The Gazette: "I loved being an assistant in today's Bookbug session at Erskine Library and I want to thank the team for inviting me. 

"It was great to watch all of the kids having such a good time. Singing these songs are part of our culture and passed through the generations and these kids will one day be singing them to their own children. It’s such an amazing thing to see and share.

"Bookbug is so important for kids in terms of socialising but also for parents and carers, as they really lost out during the pandemic in terms of having that peer support from other parents."

The Gazette: Lisa-Marie Hughes and Natalie DonLisa-Marie Hughes and Natalie Don (Image: OneRen)

Parents also had the opportunity to sign up to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which provides a free book every month to all 2 to 5-year-old children in Renfrewshire.

Victoria Smith, from Erskine, was at the session with her daughter Faith, aged one. 

She said: "We've been coming for the last four months and it’s great. Faith really enjoys it, jumping around and having fun. 

"We read a book every night and Faith is a member of the library. But more than that it’s a great way to interact and learn new things and socialising. 

"It can be tough, I don’t have any friends who have kids her age, that’s why I bring her to meet other children and dance to her wee songs. We love it."

Across Renfrewshire's 12 community libraries, Bookbug sessions are up by 40% on pre-Covid numbers. 

In the last financial year, Renfrewshire Libraries delivered 1,338 Bookbug sessions, attended by almost 10,000 adults and more than 11,000 children.

The Gazette: Victoria Smith and her daughter FaithVictoria Smith and her daughter Faith (Image: OneRen)

The theme of this year's Bookbug Week is the Big Shoogle and Debbie McBride, library team supervisor at Erskine Library, made sure everyone at the session was shoogling away. 

She said: "The joy of Bookbug is seeing all the wee ones – and the adults – smiling, singing, having fun while learning and I just look forward to every Monday morning because it's amazing to be part of this.

"Libraries provide a safe space for people. We are here if people want a friendly chat or an ear to listen and we know that sometimes people don’t see other folk that often, with social isolation playing a big role still after the pandemic. 

"That’s why Bookbug is so important, because there were a lot of children born during the pandemic that haven’t had that social interaction. I have seen a big difference in the children who came when we were first re-opening; they were so shy, they hadn’t interacted with anyone else and now, they just give it their all and you see them come alive during Bookbug."

Debbie welcomed the support of her new assistant. 

She said: "The minister did a fantastic job. Natalie did very well and knew all the songs, I would be more than happy to have her come along and be my assistant at another Bookbug session!"

The Gazette: Natalie Don with families attending the Bookbug session in Erskine LibraryNatalie Don with families attending the Bookbug session in Erskine Library (Image: OneRen)

Councillor Lisa-Marie Hughes, chair of OneRen, added: "We're delighted to welcome the minister to Erskine Library and let her share the joy of our Bookbug sessions. 

"For parents and, particularly young parents and carers, it's a great way to build communities and meet up with others who are going through a similar period in their lives. 

"Also, it fosters a life-long love of reading and that’s incredibly special."