New research by NCB shows that foster carers want more support to engage their foster children with reading. Crucially, carers said that they wanted better access to books.
The new report, commissioned by Book Trust, is based on a UK-wide survey of almost 600 foster carers and interviews with a smaller number of foster carers and children. The research explored carers’ reading habits and attitudes, and how they engage children in reading for pleasure.
“90% of foster carers who read with their child reported that it had made a positive difference to the relationship between them and their child.”
Children in care face multiple disadvantages. On average, they are less likely to achieve good qualifications than other children and more likely not to be in education, employment or training as a young adult. Foster carers taking part in our research reported that 40% of the children they cared for had a below average reading level.
Foster carers can play a key role in giving children the best possible start in life. They can offer a safe, stable and nurturing home, and can contribute to a child’s development. Studies show that early reading (with all children) is linked to academic achievement and behaviour later on, suggesting it could have significant benefits for children in care.
Our research found that foster carers generally recognise the benefits of reading with their children. Around three quarters of carers strongly agreed that reading helped to widen a child’s vocabulary, fed imagination, helped with school work, and built communication skills. Strikingly, 90% of foster carers who read with their child reported that it had made a positive difference to their relationship.
“[reading helped] to build a relationship, to build trust, to show them that people do want to spent time with them…and to build their self-worth I guess, that you know, people do want to help them and be interested in what they want to be interested in.” - Foster carer
However, carers faced a number of barriers. Some said they didn’t have access to a local library. Carers supporting children of different age ranges didn’t always have suitable books for every child. Encouraging children who were reluctant to read was a challenge. They wanted advice on which books might work best, and how to engage children who weren’t used to spending time reading with adults.
“Being a good role model in reading is one of the best things you can actually do.”- Foster carer