Long-term effects of BookStart

Submitted by: Adriana Bus
Abstract: Purpose – BookStart is a bookgifting program: parents receive a book package when children are about 4 months old and it is expected that free books work as “a nudge” that reminds parents of the importance of book reading and stimulates that they indeed read to young children (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008). Most parents are aware of the importance of verbal interaction with very young children but book reading is not yet part of their routines. A main hypothesis is that bookgifting initiates book reading routines at an early age which may affect children’s interest in reading and children’s language and literacy skills on the long run.
In a prior research (Van den Berg & Bus, 2014), we were able to demonstrate the short-term effects of an early start with book reading on children’s language development at 15 months. When parents followed up the BookStart suggestion to make an early start with book sharing this had a positive effect on the baby’s vocabulary at 15 months.
Method – About 800 participants in the first study were invited to participate in the second study and about 60% agreed to continue their collaboration and to complete a new questionnaire when children were on average 59 months old (SD = 3 months). About half of this group adopted BookStart in the first year of children’s life.
The questions concern book reading (e.g. how many books available, where in the home and how often does a caregiver share books with the child) but in particular children’s interest in reading.
We asked permission to get access to scores on standardized tests at school.
Results –In all, 470 caregivers have completed the online questionnaire. For about half of the children we received scores on a standardized language and literacy test applied in the second year in kindergarten just before children start first grade. Especially temperamentally highly reactive children benefited from BookStart on the long run.
Conclusions –We discuss why in particular temperamentally reactive children profit from bookgifting and why bookgifting programs are important even when not all children benefit.
Thaler, R.H., & Sunstein, C.R. (2008). Nudge: Improving decissions about health, wealth and happiness. Yale uNiversity Press.
van den Berg, H., & Bus, A. G. (2014). Beneficial effects of BookStart in temperamentally highly reactive infants. Learning and Individual Differences, 36, 69-75.