Speech and Language 

The Power of Book Tokens!

During the summer of 2023, Save the Children were able to provide book tokens to the Speech & Language team in Newport. After a recent catch-up with the team to discuss the impact of this scheme, we’ve received the following feedback. This is a great example of how something seemingly quite small can make a big impact and bring together not only organisations but also encourage parents to become more engaged;

“Children who are read to frequently before they start school have better oral skills when they get to school than those who are not read to (Weitzman and Greenberg 2002).

There is an interdependent relationship between reading and language development. Reading books supports language development: words are often accompanied by pictures to aid understanding, the story can be read again and again which allows children to become familiar with the words and concepts in the story and books can introduce topics and vocabulary that do not occur in everyday situations such as visiting the dentist or flying in a spaceship. Language skills supports reading ability as knowledge of words and sentence structure can help children predict the next word on the page or anticipate what will happen next in the story.

The National Literacy Trust’s 2022 study found that 1 in 10 children who receive free school meals not have a book at home. The study found that children with 10 or fewer books at home were less likely to read frequently at home, enjoy reading, be motivated to read or to read with confidence. The study also highlighted the impact this can have on children’s wellbeing: children with fewer books at home were less likely to read to relax, to feel better when they were sad, to feel confident, to feel connected to the world or in order to spend time with others.

Reading books with young children is included in the Welsh Government’s Talk with Me key messages. A short video of the message can be viewed here:  (4) Talk with me: Tip 6 – YouTube

The importance of reading with children is explored with parents throughout all of the Early Years Language and Inclusion programmes including antenatal sessions.  There are dedicated sessions devoted to book reading in our Tiny Talker and Chatty Children Early Support language groups. Tiny Talkers is for parents/carers and children aged  7 – 18 months exploring key messages around language and communication; this group is open to all families in Newport. Chatty Children is a referral based group for the families of children aged 18 – 30 months who have been identified as needing support for their language skills. These groups run in various locations across the city and up to 6 families can attend each group. Typically there are 33 groups running each term.

Feedback collected from these groups indicate that parents have responded to the information shared with them about the benefit of books and reading with their children. Some parents started reading with their children, while others who already looked at books with their child increased the frequency. The feedback also included comments from parents saying they had joined the library to get children’s books and that they turned the telly off and read more instead.

The book tokens donated by Save the Children were given out during these sessions.  Delivery Officers valued being able to give something so practical to parents that could benefit the children and their siblings. Delivery Officers also felt that it would also serve as reminder of the group by extension of the strategies and advice they heard: “every time they look at the book they bought with the voucher hopefully it will be a little reminder of session and it will be there as a prompt to keep practicing the key messages”.  Parents were reported to be grateful and touched by the gesture as well as pleasantly surprised by the monetary amount. A number of parents reported that they would use the token to buy books as birthday or Christmas presents for their children.”

Speech & Language Team – Newport.

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