A study by the National Children’s Bureau on behalf of reading charity BookTrust shows that 90 per cent of foster carers who read with their child say it has made a positive impact on the relationship between them.
Shared reading helped foster carers connect with their child, understand and talk about issues in their child’s life, and increased their child’s self-esteem, the report found.
Three quarters of almost 600 carers surveyed said they strongly agreed that reading had many educational benefits for their child, including helping to widen a child’s vocabulary, feed imagination and build communication skills.
Diana Gerald, BookTrust chief executive, said, ‘Shared reading is linked to a wide range of life outcomes and we are delighted this new research highlights the positive impact reading can have on the relationship between carers and their children. We look forward to working with practitioners to support carers with inspiring a love of books in their children.’
However, the research also highlighted the difficulties that foster families face, with nearly half of the carers surveyed not reading with their child on a daily basis, and one in six foster carers never or hardly ever reading with their foster child.
Although four in ten foster children were considered to be below average in their reading levels by their foster carers, only 46 per cent of foster carers reported receiving support with helping their foster child to read, the report said.
The research suggested the importance of stability in foster placements, as it found that children who had been in their current placement for longer read more frequently with their carer.
Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said, ‘Reading with a parent is an enjoyable way to develop literacy skills that can stand a child in good stead for the rest of their lives. But it is especially important that we support reading by foster children – who make up the majority of children in care – as foster carers often say these children’s reading levels lag behind others.’
Lemn Sissay, author and patron of The Letterbox Club, a BookTrust initiative which sends parcels of books, maths games and stationery to children aged between three and 13, said, ‘It’s brilliant to see this new research shine a light on the importance of shared reading for children in care. It is equally important for these children to be encouraged to read with carers as there will often be a talent within their child that needs and deserves specific attention.’
Mr Sissay added, ‘There are many heroes in children’s literature who are foster children; Harry Potter was a foster child and orphaned, Paddington Bear was fostered and BFG character Sofia lived in a children’s home. I would urge foster carers to help boost their child’s self-esteem by showing them that these extraordinary characters they admire are the greatest example of children in care.’