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).

Alleviating parental depression

A new article published in BMC Health Services Research looks at the impact of the Incredible Years (IY) parenting programmes on parental depression and service use. IY aims to reduce conduct disorder in children and depression in their parents, two issues that are often apparent in the same family. Recent trials in the UK and Ireland have focused on the effects of the programme on children, but less was known about the effects on parents.

The authors explored parental depression and service use (and the associated costs) after attending a 12-week, group-based IY Basic Parenting programme. They conducted a secondary analysis of data gathered in a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of the programme. The original RCT sample consisted of 153 (Intervention N=104, Control N=49) parents of children aged 3–4 years old (at baseline) living in 11 disadvantaged Sure Start areas in north and mid Wales.

Depression scores were compared over time for the intervention and control groups. The authors found that parental depression decreased at six months for both the intervention and control groups; however, this decrease was only significant for the intervention group. The differences between intervention and control groups were not significant.

The article also looked at service use costs (primary services such as GPs and health visitors; social services; and hospital services). The parents in the trial accessed a high number of services, particularly in primary health. Total mean costs of service use for the intervention group increased at six and eighteen months post-baseline; however, costs decreased at twelve months post-baseline. Parents who scored above the “clinical level” of self-reported depression in both the intervention and control groups accessed more health and social services than those who were below the clinical level for concern.

Source: Parental Depression and Child Conduct Problems: Evaluation of Parental Service Use and Associated Costs After Attending the Incredible Years Basic Parenting Programme (2014), BMC Health Services Research, 13.

Research suggests link between well-being and achievement

Researchers from Queen’s University in Belfast have explored the relationship between well-being and academic achievement scores among primary school children, and found it to be statistically significant. These new findings were based on data on academic achievement and a range of well-being indicators gathered through a cross-sectional survey of 1,081 pupils aged 7–11 in Northern Ireland. The team used six of the most common measures of well-being, covering psychological factors, school engagement factors, and family and peer relationship factors.

The authors found that the positive relationship between well-being and achievement was the same for all children, regardless of their gender or socio-economic background. Therefore, they suggest that efforts to improve achievement that focus on well-being should not be targeted specifically at children in economically deprived areas or be modified in terms of gender. Instead, a more universal approach to promoting well-being across the population would be appropriate in order to improve educational achievement.

Source: Miller S, Connolly P, and Maguire LK, Wellbeing, academic buoyancy and educational achievement in primary school students (In press, 2013), International Journal of Educational Research.

Home computer use and children’s academic performance

A paper in the Oxford Review of Education examines the link between children’s home computer use and their academic performance in reading and maths. The study uses data from the nine-year-old cohort of the Growing Up in Ireland survey and a multiple regression model to estimate the effect of home computer use on reading and maths test scores. It finds that computer use is associated with increased scores. This result holds after taking into account other factors that determine school performance, and there is no significant difference in effect for the amount of use.

The study also looks at the effects of different types of computer use. Surfing the internet for fun, doing projects for school, and emailing are associated with higher reading and maths test scores, and children who use the computer unsupervised tend to have higher scores in maths, but instant messaging and downloading music or watching films are negatively associated with test scores. However, while these results indicate significant association with academic performance, the study was not able to establish a definitive direction of causation.

Source: Home computer use and academic performance of nine-year-olds (2012), Oxford Review of Education, 38(5)

Effects of Reading Recovery last through to the end of primary school

The Reading Recovery annual report for the UK and Ireland shows that 11-year-old children who received Reading Recovery at age six matched their classmate’s progress for the following six years, to the end of primary school.

Reading Recovery is designed to help low-achieving pupils in Year 1 improve to age-expected levels. The report shows that in 2011-12 – the first year that enough Reading Recovery children had reached Year 6 and completed their Key Stage 2 national assessment – 78 per cent of children who had completed the programme achieved Level 4 (the national average) or above in their reading assessment, and 67 per cent achieved the same in writing. Nearly all children achieved Level 3 or above, with 95 per cent achieving this level in their reading assessment and 98 per cent in writing.

Source:Reading recovery children go on to succeed up to end of Key Stage 2 (2012), Institute of Education