Does Bookstart+ make a difference?

New research from Queen’s University, Belfast, explores the impact of Bookstart+ on family reading outcomes. Bookstart+ is an intervention provided by health visitors on behalf of the Booktrust. Parents are given a pack of books and other items (eg, bookplates, colouring pencils, reading list) at their child’s two-year appointment. They are also given a presentation to encourage them to share books more often with their child, and the presentation emphasises the importance of reading for children’s development and for building relationships.

The trial involved 462 families from the client lists of health visitors in Northern Ireland. Each health visitor was assigned four families by the health visitor service, two of whom were randomly allocated as intervention families in the study, and two as controls.

The authors looked at three outcomes: the effect on parents’ attitudes to their own reading, the effect on parents’ attitudes to their child reading, and family library use. They found that:

  • There was evidence of a significant positive effect of Bookstart+ on parents’ attitudes to their own reading.
  • Parents’ attitude to their child reading increased, although this was not statistically significant.
  • There was some evidence of a negative effect on families in the intervention group in terms of library use, but again this was not significant.

The effects of Bookstart+ tended to be similar regardless of other factors such as socio-economic background, level of parental education, or number of children in the family.

The authors conclude that Bookstart+, a low-cost and low-intensity intervention, can have a reasonable positive effect on family reading attitudes, and that this study combined with previous research encourages the development and expansion of book-giving programmes.

Source: A Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial of “Bookstart+”: A Book Gifting Grogramme (2014), Journal of Children’s Services, 9(1).