New Study on Book Gifting for Babies

By Emily Ball Cicchini, Executive Director

The tradition of book gifting has been studied scientifically by researchers in education and healthcare for many years.  Practices include bookmobiles, little free libraries, and other early literacy interventions and social programs at the regional, national, and global levels. We at BookSpring look to this work to inspire and continuously improve the work we do in Central Texas.

We are particularly excited about a new study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology (O’Farrelly, Doyle, Vicotry, & Palamaro-Munsell, 2018) that provides more evidence that the gift of books for the home makes a positive difference on early childhood development.

The study specifically focused on two open-ended questions in the scientific community:  one, is if babies from birth to the age of 6 months benefit from being read aloud to, and two, if interventions that encourage parents to read aloud improve the effectiveness of book gifting in increasing the frequency of parents reading aloud with their children at home.

One of the leading theories discussed is that the joint attention created by both infants and adults sharing books on the pictures and words at the same time has developmental value for the children.  This includes pointing to and naming the images, as well as the physical act of turning the pages of the thick and colorful board books that are particularly appropriate for this age.

BookSpring promotes joint attention between parents and children through reading from birth, although this theory had not previously been tested in children younger than six months.  This particular study focused on the effects of a book giving along with home visiting programs, such as those that are designed to intervene with particularly low-income families.

The study divided the families into three groups:  high intensity, low intensity, and a comparison group.  The high intensity had one-on-one visits and lots of coaching, and the low intensity received materials and opportunities to participate in workshop events, but little direct contact intervention time.

It measured book reading frequency, language development, cognitive development, and socio-emotional development.  Outcomes were measured and analyzed for differences over time.  The researchers were looking to see when exactly the results happened in the child’s development, so it studied the same families when their children were 6 and 12 months old.

The results were surprising:  both low and high-intensity group mothers were significantly more likely to read to their infants than comparison group mothers.  There were no differences between the low and high-intensity groups.  To put it in other words, just the books and materials, along with encouraging messages, was as effective as more intensive contact interventions, and are arguably less expensive and complicated to deliver.

As in many other studies, daily reading together, as opposed to a few times a week or less, had better results for infants at both 6 and 12 months.

This study supports BookSpring’s current approach to foreground book gifting as an efficient way of helping young children from low-income families develop their fullest potential as readers, talkers, thinkers, and compassionate human beings.  While we will always support motivational activities and interactions, studies such as this one support the power of the gift of books in low intensity programs.

Science like this helps us all know that donated books, as well as cash contributions, help keep the flow of books ongoing into low-income neighborhoods and really do make a positive impact on children’s development.

The entire study is available for download at Science Direct: Read more here.

Source:  O’Farrelly, C., Doyle, O., Victory, G., & Palamaro-Munsell, E. (2018). Shared reading in infancy and later development: Evidence from an early intervention. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 54, 69-83.


New Study on Book Gifting for Babies
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New Study on Book Gifting for Babies

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