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The impact of Bookbug Sessions on promoting positive parenting practices

New research highlights the remarkable benefits that Bookbug Sessions provide for parent/carer–child bonding, parental wellbeing, and more.

Photo of a bookbug session leader with her baby daughter sitting on her knee, holding a Bookbug toy
Researcher Kate Tihhonova with her daughter Vera

Kate Tihhonova, a Bookbug Session Leader in Glasgow, carried out this research in late 2022 as part of her MSc Information and Library Studies at the University of Strathclyde. The project's main purpose was to investigate the impact of Bookbug Sessions as a parental drop-in activity group within the public library environment on promoting positive parenting practices and sustaining parents’ wellbeing during their early parenthood with the ultimate goal of supporting young children’s health and welfare.

What is positive parenting?

'Positive parenting', also known as 'strength-based parenting', emphasises focusing on children's strong points, rather than correcting perceived 'weaknesses'. Research suggests that positive parenting practices can reduce disruptive behaviours, boost social and emotional and cognitive development, expand the ability to cope with stress and lead to advanced imagination(this link will open in a new window).

Kate surveyed a total of 437 parents/carers – 32 face-to-face at five Bookbug Sessions in Glasgow libraries, and 405 via an online survey. She also interviewed six members of library staff – four Session Leaders and two Senior Managers.

The findings

The research found that attendance of Bookbug Sessions supports:

Of the parents/carers surveyed:

  • 95% said Bookbug Sessions have a positive effect on parent/carer–child bonds
  • 94% said Bookbug Sessions have a positive effect on their own wellbeing
  • 86% said Bookbug Sessions have a positive effect on their parenting skills
  • 53% said that Bookbug Sessions develop confidence as a parent/carer
  • 90% said they regularly practise rhymes, songs and storytelling at home
  • 88% said that Bookbug Sessions offer safe and welcoming space to spend quality time with a child
  • 83% said that Bookbug Sessions facilitate positive social interactions
  • 70% said that Bookbug Sessions reduce loneliness and isolation
  • 95% would recommend Bookbug Sessions at public libraries to a friend or relative

Feedback from participants

During the research, numerous participants happily shared their positive experiences with Bookbug Sessions. Read some of their comments below:

Bookbug was the first opportunity for our baby to meet other babies, when he was four months old. We have been attending almost every week since and we love it! It is something we all look forward to.

"Love Bookbug. It's so great. I recommend it to all my parent friends."

For me the Bookbug Sessions were a very positive discovery. They helped us to socialise with other mothers and kids when we arrived in the city and they also helped my daughter to learn the English language in a very fun and social way.

"It's really good to meet other dads and gain experience from them."

Bookbug Sessions are great and really helped me figure out parenting as an isolated first-time mum. Some practitioners are better than others but usually have always had a very positive experience and have been annoyed when not able to come.

Interviews with staff members responsible for organising and conducting Bookbug Sessions in public libraries shed light on the information gatekeeping theory involved. These discussions also underscored the critical role of Bookbug Leaders in promoting positive parenting practices within local communities.

Areas for development

Parents/carers reported high levels of satisfaction with Bookbug Sessions. The biggest barrier reported by parents/carers was fitting in attending Sessions around children's nap times and/or their own work schedules. 

Parents/carers and library staff members also noted that Bookbug Sessions are very popular, and often over-subscribed. 

Some parents/carers noted that some libraries have booking systems in place and Sessions book up very quickly – one reported travelling to a different local authority where booking was not in place.

A few respondents also reported needing additional support to engage with Sessions, due to disability, neurodivergence or English not being their first language.