Reading reaps rewards for children

Playing, talking and reading with your young child can have a positive impact.

Playing, talking and reading with your young child can have a positive impact.

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Young children and their parents are reading more than ever before, it has been revealed.

Hundreds more parents and carers in Scotland are using books to play, read to and engage with their very young children, according to a major study.

Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) – which has followed the lives of two groups of children from across Scotland for the last 10 years – shows a significant increase in the number of parents and carers who use books when engaging with their children at the age of 10 months.

The result follows the launch six years ago of the PlayTalkRead campaign by the Scottish Government, encouraging parents and carers to play, talk and read with their children from birth to boost their development and learning.

The campaign uses advertising and social media and provides free items to support parents with the website receiving more than 130,000 visits in 2014-15. The roadshow features three buses which travel across Scotland delivering face-to-face sessions to parents and carers, offering them advice and support.

The Scottish Government-funded scheme Bookbug, which promotes reading to children, including babies, launched in 2010.

A new paper published to the mark the 10th anniversary of the GUS study shows that the number of parents and carers using books when their child was 10 months old grew from 66 per cent before the launch of Bookbug to 69 per cent after the start of the scheme – the equivalent of more than 1700 babies being read to every year.

Extensive research has highlighted the positive impact of reading to children in their pre-school years. Previously published data has shown that children who are frequently read to in the first year of life score higher in assessments of cognitive ability at age three to four.

Children’s Minister Aileen Campbell said: “Improving literacy in our children and young people is a key priority for this Government and we know that learning begins long before school.

“Therefore it is extremely heartening to learn that hundreds more parents and carers across Scotland have embraced the crucial role books can play in helping children to develop and acquire important pre-school skills and attributes such as speaking, a sense of curiosity and a life-long love of books.

“In June this year we committed a further £2.7 million for pre-school programmes to improve literacy in children. This included the record-breaking PlayTalkRead campaign – whose website and outreach buses attracted 160,000 visits in 2014 and book gifting scheme Bookbug. We are also piloting plans to make every child in Scotland a member of their local library.

“Such valuable work, combined with the good progress reflected in the GUS report, leaves me in no doubt that the number of parents and carers using books to give their children the best start in life, will only continue to grow.”