OVERVIEW

Reading Together is a reading programme that has been co-designed by Queen’s University Belfast and Oxford University. It has been developed for children aged 7-9 in foster care and aims to help improve their reading skills and attitudes towards reading.

The programme runs for six months and during this time the foster children receive three parcels, each containing three books that they have chosen. The books are free for the children to keep. For the duration of the programme, their foster carers are asked to set aside time to read with the children and to follow some simple guidance provided to them in a short handbook.

In addition, and through this website, further guidance and resources are provided for foster carers on how to read with their children, that is based on a technique called ‘paired reading’.

WHY DO WE NEED A READING PROGRAMME?

There is now strong evidence to show that, on average, young children in care tend to not do so well in education compared to their peers. This is particularly the case in relation to reading.

This is a worry because reading is an essential skill that children need to be able to do well to help them progress in other subjects at school. In recognising this, there have been a lot of interventions put in place to try to address this problem early and to boost the reading skills of children in care.

WHY A BOOK-GIFTING PROGRAMME?

One of the most popular interventions tried to date for children in foster care has been book-gifting. This involves sending foster children free books that, it is hoped, will help to develop a love of books and of reading amongst foster children. 

Book-gifting interventions like this have been evaluated previously by members of the current research team. Whilst they have been found to be popular amongst the foster children and their carers, there is currently no robust evidence that they actually help to increase the children’s reading skills or their attitudes to reading. 

The Reading Together programme aims to build upon the popularity of book-gifting interventions but to also make them effective in improving foster children’s reading skills by introducing a role for foster carers in helping their children to read, using an approach called ‘paired reading’.

ABOUT THE RESEARCH

The research team has drawn upon existing evidence to develop Reading Together that was successfully piloted in West Sussex between September 2018 and March 2019. The results of the pilot have been used to develop and refine the programme and this revised programme is now being delivered and evaluated nationally.

This current evaluation is running from September 2019 to April 2020 and will involve over 500 foster children from about 20 local authorities across England. The trial will measure the children’s reading skills before and after taking part in Reading Together and will compare any improvements they make in reading with a control group of similar children who carried on as normal. The trial will provide robust and objective evidence of whether Reading Together is having a measurable effect on foster children’s reading skills.

All of the details of the Reading Together programme and the findings of the pilot and the main evaluation will be made available here once the trial is concluded. Similarly, all the resources will be made freely available at the same time for local authorities and other organisations to use free of charge.

MORE INFORMATION

Further background details on this research study can be found on the UKRI Gateway to Research portal.

The trial protocol for this study has been registered and published (Registry ID: #1776.1v1) and is available to view and download from the SREE Registry of Efficacy and Effectiveness Studies.

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