Do book giveaway programs influence home literacy environments and children's literacy? Findings from Bookstart, Reach Out and Read and Imagination Library

Do book giveaway programs influence home literacy environments and children's literacy? Findings from Bookstart, Reach Out and Read and Imagination Library

First Author: Ingrid Willenberg -- Australian Catholic University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Adriana Bus; Merel de Bondt
Keywords: Family literacy programs, Book Reading, Meta-analysis, Emergent literacy, BookStart
Abstract / Summary: 

Shared book reading between parent and children during the pre-school years has been widely espoused as a crucial activity for promoting children’s language and literacy development (Bus, van Ijzendoorn & Pellegrini, 1995). Research findings demonstrating the important contribution of shared book reading to children’s language and literacy outcomes have given rise to family literacy program initiatives designed to encourage parents to provide home literacy experiences for their children to provide a solid foundation for later school-based literacy development. Book giveaway interventions are of interest as a literacy-promoting strategy since they are relatively low-cost and there is some evidence supporting their effectiveness (e.g. High, Legrasse, Becker, Ahlgren & Gardner, 2000; O’Hare and Connelly, 2014). These programs provide free books to families with infants to encourage caregivers to begin reading to their children during infancy. Although program evaluations have been conducted at local program levels, a meta-analysis enabled us to integrate the findings across studies and obtain a more comprehensive understanding of book gifting programs as an intervention strategy. This meta-analysis of 40 studies examined the effects of three major book giveaway programs: Bookstart (n = 11), Reach Out and Read (n = 17), and Imagination Library (n = 12). The findings corroborate the assumption that book giveaway programs promote children’s home literacy environment (d = 0.30, 95% CI = 0.22, 0.38, k = 30), which subsequently results in children scoring higher on measures of language and academic achievements both prior to and during the early years of school (d = 0.30, 95% CI = 0.24, 0.36, k = 22). Reach Out and Read had the strongest effects on children’s language and academic achievement and the evidence suggests that this may be ascribed to providing parental coaching, which is not a feature of either Bookstart or Imagination Library.