The Impact of the Read To Me! Program in the Emergency Department of the IWK Health Centre on Family Literacy Practices

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MacDonnell, Charlene Latimer
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Mount Saint Vincent University
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the Read to Me! program in the emergency department of a pediatric hospital to determine if the intervention resulted in a change in family literacy practices. It was conducted at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The program is designed to support the mandate of the Read to Me! Nova Scotia Family Literacy Program aimed at helping families in Nova Scotia enrich their children’s early years with books and reading. Participants were parents who presented at the emergency department of the IWK Health Centre with a child six years of age or younger, and emergency department staff. Participants were interviewed for a period of twenty months at which time 485 interviews had been conducted. One hundred fourteen in the intervention group were interviewed in person prior to the intervention. Families in the intervention group had their child read to by a volunteer reader, were given a handout on tips for reading to young children and a list of age appropriate books. They were also given the gift of a book to take home. One hundred fourteen participants in the control group were interviewed in person when no volunteer reader was present. One hundred participants in the intervention group and 103 in the control group were interviewed by telephone approximately six weeks after the initial interview. Parents were asked a number of questions to determine if there were changes in family literacy practices. Twenty-seven staff members were interviewed at the beginning of the program and at the end of the pilot study to identify the impact of the program on their working environment and on perceived wait times. Intervention provided to parents and their children through the Read to Me! Program was predicted to increase parental knowledge and attitudes about the importance of reading to young children. The study found an increase in the number of families with library cards, an increased use of libraries, an increase in the number of times children visited the library and were observed looking at books. The number of children in the intervention group who had received books since taking part in the Read to Me! program was significant. Reading was selected as the indoor activity parents enjoy doing most with their child in both groups. There was no increase in the number of times books were chosen as a favourite activity from initial to subsequent interview for the intervention and control groups. However, when data from the control group were compared to data from the intervention group, parents in both groups reported that reading and looking at books was the activity that they enjoyed most with their child. There were more families in the intervention group reading to their children almost daily or at least weekly; however, there was not a significant difference between the intervention and control groups. Comparison of data collected from staff revealed that there was a significant reduction in inquiries from parents asking how long before their child would be seen by a doctor. Results of this study provide support for continuation of the Read to Me! program.
Read to Me! program , IWK Health Centre in Halifax , Literacy Program , Children