Scottish Book Trust delivers two universal book gifting programmes, funded by Scottish Government: Bookbug and Read, Write, Count. The aim of both programmes is to support families to play, read and learn together, fostering the bonding opportunities and the love of reading that are so vital to children's life chances.
Currently, through the two programmes all children in Scotland receive six free bags of high-quality books and other resources between birth and age eight, totalling 16 books across the six bags, with an additional two books gifted to expectant parents in the Baby Box. It is believed that through Bookbug and Read, Write, Count, Scotland has the largest universal book gifting offer in the world.
Bookbug has been gifting books for 12 years, and Read, Write, Count for six years. Through a mixed methods approach, including the voices of children who have been recipients of the book bags, this study aimed to holistically assess the potentially unique cumulative impact of the two programmes for children and families in Scotland.
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The Bookbug and Read, Write, Count bags have a number of important impacts for families and children in Scotland across: book access; language, communication and literacy development; and children's development as readers, as well as vital socio-emotional impacts around: bonding and attachment; relaxation; and comfort in difficult times.
In a national survey of parents/carers of 8–12 year olds:
Three key enabling factors emerged from the data:
- Universal gifting, which creates excitement and a shared culture of reading for pleasure across Scotland
- The inclusion of high-quality, fun books in the book bags
- Professionals providing families with information about the book bags at the point of gifting
The data suggests that families in the lower SIMD deciles are slightly less likely to recall receiving the book bags, and also less likely to use them as frequently, demonstrating the continued need for additional targeted activities tailored to families' circumstances to maximise impact.
Other than continued work to ensure all families receive and use their book bags, the only substantive improvement suggested by parents/carers and professionals was that book gifting be extended for older children.
One family's journey with Bookbug and Read, Write Count
'My two children absolutely love getting the book bags! I remember a couple of years ago my son had got new fish and a fish tank for his birthday then shortly after when he received his Bookbug bag there was a story about a goldfish. He was chuffed to bits and we read that story every night for about three months.
We always try to make time to read but recently as a single parent of two kids we have been missing it quite often. After my son received his Read, Write, Count bag from school it has got us back into the habit of setting aside five or ten minutes before bed to read, it's a great bonding time and brings us closer together as a family.
I have never been a reader, it wasn't shown to me at a young age, we never had anything like Bookbug so I never read much unless it was necessary for school work. So honestly without being gifted the bags and seeing how much the children benefit from reading (and how much they enjoy it) I probably wouldn't have as much books in the house and wouldn't do as much reading with both my children as I do now.
Don't think I would change anything about the bags they are perfect! My son said he would change that they are only for up to P3 (he is in P3 now so this will be his last year) and to have more books in them! It has helped us to realise how much my son enjoys reading and he now has a full bookshelf of books in his bedroom. If it wasn't for Bookbug I probably wouldn't have seen how much he enjoys reading. Thank you.'