A research update from Louise Chadwick, Head of Public Policy and Research, Book Trust.
New research shows that the children of the poorest families are seven to eight times more likely to exhibit serious social and emotional problems than their wealthy peers.
Professor Yvonne Kelly of the Institute for Social & Economic Research (ISER), University of Essex worked with colleagues on data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS).
Professor Kelly's study is one of the first to chart the magnitude of inequalities in the pre-school years in the UK today. Her findings show that the gap in verbal skill development between children from lower income families and their better-off peers widens by no less than 50 per cent between the ages of three and five.
The report suggested:
If half or all of the 5-year-old children who were read to less than daily were instead read to on a daily basis there would be corresponding 10% and 20% reductions in the proportion of 5-year-olds with socioemotional difficulties.
Bookstart : a 'key initiative'
I contacted Yvonne Kelly and asked whether we could have a copy of her research to use on our website and whether she felt able to endorse the role that Bookstart plays in encouraging parents and carers to share books, stories and rhymes.
She sent a copy of the research back and also gave us the following comments:
We found that the strongest predictor of childhood development, including their socioemotional development and cognitive skills, was reading to children on a daily basis. It is one of the strongest predictors of these outcomes, even when everything else is taken into consideration.
There is something about the strongly transactional element of storytelling that makes it important; adult and child snuggle up close, think about the pictures together and what might happen next. It also provides one-on-one, intimate time between carer and child.
And, on the importance of getting books into homes:
Bookstart is a key initiative getting books into homes and encouraging parents and carers to share books, stories and rhymes from birth which can make a significant difference to outcomes later in life for a child.