Research Digest: October 2014

Published on: 21 October 2014 Author: The BookTrust Research Team

BookTrust Research DigestTraining in book sharing can impact on the mother-infant relationship as well as improve children's attention and language.

A recent pilot study evaluated a book sharing training programme in South Africa. It tested before and after outcomes on a group of mothers with 14-16 month olds in a socio-economically deprived community. 17 mums received training on book sharing and 13 mums received comparison training in toy play.

The group who received book sharing training showed the biggest improvements. In relation to book sharing, mums became more sensitive (attuned and responsive to infant signals), more facilitating (enabling the child's engagement) and more elaborative with their child compared with similar mums who received the training in toy play.

Interestingly, mums who did the book sharing training also became more sensitive to their children during toy play than the group trained specifically in toy play – therefore a positive outcome occurs in a context outside of book sharing as a result of this training.

A typical response on the benefits of the programme was reported as:

'my baby has learned many new words…my bond with her is also better. Before this training I was not really giving her attention. Now, because of coming here for the sessions, I know that it is important for her that I give her time and attention. And I feel much closer to her now.'

The children in the intervention group also showed greater improvements in attention and language (comprehension and vocabulary), than the children in the comparison group.

Cooper et al, 2013. Promoting Mother–Infant Book Sharing and Infant Attention and Language Development in an Impoverished South African Population: A Pilot Study, Early Education Journal, 42:143–152

Dialogic book reading helps children with autism

This study illustrated the benefits of a dialogic book sharing intervention with three pre-school children with autism. Compared to the baseline assessments where the children were simply read the book, the children talked more during dialogic book reading and spent more time engaged with the books.

The children were read the books by the report authors in a research setting, and the data was recorded by research assistants. Nine reading sessions took place over five weeks. The children were prompted to talk every 2-3 pages of the book using four different strategies; completion (asking the child to complete the sentence), recall (questions about the characters or previous events in the story), open ended questions, what/when/why etc questions, and distancing strategies (relating the story to the child's personal life).

This result is particularly important as the difficulties with social communication that children with autism experience is also thought to impede on their participation in literacy practices. Therefore, these positive preliminary findings warrant further investigation.

Fleury et al, 2014. Promoting active participation in book reading for pre-schoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A preliminary study, Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 30(3) 273– 288

Making it REAL: positive outcomes for children, families and early years settings

The Making it REAL programme delivers an evidence-based family literacy intervention for two to five year olds through early years settings. It is based on the principle that parents are a child's first teacher. Practitioners engage parents and families to support their child's development through the ORIM literacy framework, which shows parents how to provide: opportunities, recognition, interaction and models across four strands of literacy development; environmental print, books, early writing and oral language. The first year of the programme was delivered in 64 early years' settings, by 135 practitioners and involved 497 children.

The evaluation of year one of the project found positive outcomes for children across all four areas of literacy that the programme focuses on; environmental print, books, early writing and oral language. This was as well as wider benefits on development, in particular, enabling early identification of additional needs and referrals to specialist services.

The programme also raised confidence and knowledge of parents (in their role as child's teacher) and practitioners (in their role in supporting families). It engaged more dads and male carers, and has led many practitioners to begin embedding the REAL principle and ORIM framework into their early years setting - a key aim of the programme overall.

The evaluation was based on pre and post training/intervention surveys with practitioners, feedback surveys (just post intervention) with parents, and in depth case studies using interviews. They captured views on the programme, self-reported parental and practitioner outcomes, and practitioner's observations and assessments of parental confidence levels and children's outcomes. 

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