Centre for Research on Families and Relationships

Measuring the impact of the book-gifting programme Bookbug

by Emma Davidson


Emma Davidson, Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh


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Ahead of the 2017 Bookbug conference research fellow Emma Davidson shares a few findings from CRFR’s Bookbug research.

Bookbug is the Scottish Book Trust’s Early Years programme, encouraging parents and children to share stories, songs and rhymes from birth. The Scottish Book Trust’s Early Years programme has gifted free bags of books and resources to children in Scotland for many years, and there are Bookbug Sessions taking place every day in Scotland’s libraries, nurseries, and early years centres.

Over the last two years CRFR has been investigating the impact of the Bookbug programme on parents, carers, children and early years professionals. Amongst other questions, we have been seeking to understand the impact Bookbug has had on attitudes to reading, and whether there is a link between the way Bookbug Bags are gifted and the impact it has on families.

One of the key principles of Bookbug is that is a universal programme. This means that Bookbug Bags are available for all families in Scotland, and that Bookbug Sessions are – without exception – free to attend.

The evidence from our study shows the importance of universal delivery. Bookbug, we found, can have a positive impact on all families: not just those who might be judged ‘in need’ should the programme be means tested. For many of the parents we spoke to – including those who already described themselves as placing a high value on reading – Bookbug played a key part in reminding them of the importance of reading and singing to their children, and prompting them to dedicate time to do this:

“I definitely do think that it’s made a difference, it’s made me make sure I set, you know, 10-15 minutes aside every day, to do that [reading] with him.”

Moreover, parents described Bookbug as encouraging them to do this at an earlier age than they initially intended:

“I would have thought “oh, she’s too young”, so it prompted me to think “oh well if they’re giving it to me, she can’t be too young…These things are good to remind you to do it…like in theory I should know what I’m doing because this is number 2, but getting books does make you think ‘oh yeah, I should actually be reading to her and not just to her sister.”

What is clear from the data is that we cannot make assumptions about who might benefit from Bookbug based on the number of children they have, their income, gender, ethnicity and so on. Regardless of these factors families spoke about the positive impact that book-sharing has had on bonding and attachment between themselves and their children and their child’s enthusiasm for books. At the same time, Bookbug Sessions enabled many families to form new social and support networks.

We look forward to sharing more findings from our Bookbug research with you over the forthcoming months – keep an eye on the <a href=”http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/bookbug”>Bookbug webpages</a> for more information, or join the CRFR research network mailing list for updates about this and other ongoing projects.