Studies show that book giveaways work for literacy

A meta-analysis confirmed what literacy programs have believed to be true. Merel de Bondt, Ingrid A. Willenberg, and…
Dolly Parton and literacy

A meta-analysis confirmed what literacy programs have believed to be true.

Merel de Bondt, Ingrid A. Willenberg, and Adriana G. Bus recently published “Do Book Giveaway Programs Promote the Home Literacy Environment and Children’s Literacy-Related Behavior and Skills?” This meta-analysis considered a number of different studies on book giveaway programs.

A total of 44 studies—ones that compared literacy in children based on whether they did or did not get books—qualified for the meta-analysis. Three programs giving away books to children were investigated by all of the studies. These were Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Bookstart, and Reach Out and Read.

Imagination Library and Reach Out and Read are both American initiatives, while Bookstart is based in England and Wales.

The programs all use different strategies for literacy. With Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, kids receive a book per month until they are five years old. With Bookstart, kids receive a book or two on different set occasions.

Reach Out and Read connects reading with healthcare, involving pediatricians, nurses, and health clinics. Kids receive books at checkups, and parents learn about the significance of reading for a child’s cognitive development. Also, volunteers at certain clinics show parents what effective shared reading looks like.

The studies were particularly concerned with the effects of these programs for children in low-income families. And the studies came to positive conclusions:

Participation in any book giveaway program yielded a positive effect. But we found that programs like Reach Out and Read, that involve interaction with parents and provide guidance on how to read, showed a greater effect.

Ingrid A. Willenberg

More books didn’t mean more effect. Imagination Library was as effective as Bookstart, though the former delivers 60 books per child and the latter gives a small number. Even one book makes a difference:

The book gift may entice caregivers to try shared book reading, which may then lead to the development of a regular book reading routine, especially when these incidental attempts are positive experiences for both the caregiver and the child.

Merel de Bondt, Ingrid A. Willenberg, and Adriana G. Bus

The parent connection is important, but even simple book giveaways showed “impressive” results. Book giveaways are also much more affordable than hiring a doctor or educator. So, the researchers say that these programs, if expanded on a more global scale, could have an even greater influence:

We may expect even stronger impacts from expanding book giveaway programs to more diverse and generally less well-resourced social/cultural contexts, such as sub-Saharan Africa or Middle Eastern refugee camps.

Merel de Bondt, Ingrid A. Willenberg, and Adriana G. Bus

Article source: The Hechinger Report

Featured image source: Shannon Finney

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