The United We Read program evaluation measures home based reading behaviour of participants. The methodology is based on phone surveys by United Way SA volunteers of parents/carers upon commencement in the program and then a follow up survey at 9 months. The phone interview data collection of reading behaviour is informed by parents/carers self-reporting.
An additional phone survey of home based reading behaviour after 18 months participation in the United We Read program is proposed. The aim of this survey is to determine the impact of creating a ‘reading habit’ over time and understand better how the program works at different ages of the child.
Future research is being proposed to assess direct outcomes for registered children in relation to the Australian Early Childhood Development Census domains as well as indirect outcomes for parent literacy, family wellbeing and community resilience. Negotiation with university research partners at the University of South Australia and the Torrens University of Australia are ongoing.
Findings to Date
United We Read is home based and child-led. As the book is addressed to the child, the child asking “Read to me” is the cue to members of the household to read aloud to the child. The evaluation of the pilot has shown that children asking “Read to me” increased to 86% of children, doubling from 44% prior to participation in United We Read.
The child asking “Read to me” has resulted in a six-fold increase in the frequency of daily reading to children by other members of the household. Prior to commencing the United We Read program, daily reading only occurred in 10% of households. After 9 months in the program home based daily reading increased to 60%. There has also been a significant drop in the children who were read to once a week or not at all, dropping from 43% down to 14%.
As a measure of quality family time the evaluation shows that the average length of time the parent/carer spends with their child when they read aloud has increased to over 10 minutes per day. In this group many parents/cares read for more than 20 minutes (14%). It is also shows that whenever a parent/carer engages with a child to read, they will spend at least 5 minutes together, with reading less than 5 minutes dropping from 17% to zero.
These results mirror evaluations of similar programs in the USA run through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.
There are many positive anecdotes from parents/carers and community partners about the benefits of United We Read. Here are two examples:
I read more to him now; he likes the books. Before he was getting the free books, I didn’t care much about the reading. Now I make time to read to him.
In one home the children had nothing except for the books – so without them they would have had nothing at all.
(Bronwen, CFC Midwifery – Lyell McEwin Hospital)