Evaluating the Leeds Story Buses

White bus with cartoon drawings on the side and the words Story Bus also written on the side.

This summer, Emma Twine and Cat Davies have been working with Leeds Libraries to independently evaluate their Story Bus Service.

Now one year into operation, the two story buses bring reading experiences in a creative and nurturing environment to communities across the city. Children and their caregivers are welcomed into the space by the staff team who have a rich understanding of children’s literature. The team recommend books and model good practice in sharing books and activities.

The story bus evaluation report presents data from interviews and observations of almost 500 people using the buses, including caregivers, young children, librarians and other library staff, and early years practitioners. It also provides some key recommendations to ensure that the buses are providing the most effective service possible to enable to growth of a city of readers, helping to reduce socioeconomic gaps in early years development.

Key findings

  • Support for the buses was overwhelmingly positive across all stakeholders.
  • Caregivers mainly visited the story bus to support their children’s reading development. Fewer families used the bus for borrowing books.
  • Reading was the most enjoyable aspect of the bus, along with singing, and the physical characteristics and novelty of the buses.
  • Children were highly engaged in language and literacy activities on the bus, and demonstrated a range of early literacy skills.
  • The modelling of reading to families by librarians increased caregivers’ and practitioners’ confidence.
  • Unusually, the data contained no negative comments about the service. Participants suggested that the only ways to improve it are to widen and promote the provision.
  • Most caregivers did not previously know about the service. Effective advertising is required.

Taken together, the new data shows that one year into its operation, current story bus practice effectively addresses several of its original aims:

  • To foster a love of books and reading in the early years.
  • To encourage families to share books and reading activities together.
  • To support the development of language, communication and literacy.