Research Summary on How Imagination Library Supports Family Literacy

Forty-one independent studies have shown that Imagination Library is having a significant and positive impact on family literacy habits, kindergarten readiness and 3rd grade reading on grade level.

Here in Cuyahoga County: 747 families who have been receiving Imagination Library books for more than six months responded to a September 2019 survey. More than half of the parents responding have a child that is under age 3 years.

  • 73% of the respondents said they read to their children more often since they began receiving Imagination Library books. In zip codes with higher poverty (>30%) the response is 84%.
  • 70% of parents said their children have been asking to be read to more often since starting the Imagination Library program. 81% in higher poverty zip codes.
  • 91% of families believe participation in Imagination Library is helping their child better prepared for Kindergarten. 94% in higher poverty zip codes.
  • 76% of respondents in higher poverty zip codes report that Imagination Library books make up more than half of their home library.
  • One-third of respondents said they have used their public library more often.

Based on Imagination Library Research Findings and Literature Review:

  • Richer home literacy environment
    • Parents read aloud more to their children and were more comfortable reading as a result of DPIL
    • Parents reported their children owned more books as a result of participating in the program
  • Positive attitudes about reading and motivation to read among caregivers and children during book reading
    • Participating family members were overwhelmingly positive about the program and its impact on their children when asked in questionnaires, interviews, and focus groups.
    • Community members, including Imagination Library partners and preschool and kindergarten teachers, also had positive views of the program and its impact on book ownership and literacy practices in homes
    • The positive view of the program and its impacts were present regardless of the demographic characteristics of the community or its participants, and longer program participation often resulted in more positive outcomes
  • Increased interactions between caregivers and children in book reading
    • Parents believed their children were more interested in reading due to receiving the books each month
    • Participating children were excited when their DPIL books arrived in the mail monthly, addressed specifically to the child
    • Some studies found DPIL had promise with respect to developing children’s early literacy skills, as participants had more advanced skills than their classmates who did not participate in the program.
    • One study found better attendance and fewer school suspensions for children who had been enrolled in the Imagination Library program.
    • Specific research in Syracuse, NY “Is participation in the DPIL associated with higher levels of kindergarten readiness”: For those consistently enrolled in the program (3-4 years), there was a 28.9% increase in children ready for kindergarten, according to the AIMSweb LNF (Letter Naming Fluency) (Letter Naming Fluency – identified frequently as the best single indicator of risk for reading failure (Elliot, Lee & Tollefson 2001, Hintze, Ryan, & Stoner 2003).

Why is the information cited above important?

  • Access to books is key to reading skills. Studies confirm that the number of books in the home directly predicts reading achievement.  Children who grew up with books in their homes reached a higher level of education than those who did not. (Family Scholarly Culture and Educational Success)
  • The single most important factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home before starting school. (National Commission on Reading)
  • In middle income neighborhoods, the ratio is 13 books per child; in low income neighborhoods, the ratio is one book for every 300 children. (Neuman, Susan B and David K. Dickinson, ed. Handbooks of Early Literacy Research, Volume 2. New York, NY: 2006)
  • Storybook reading has been shown to have a powerful effect upon young children’s literacy knowledge and subsequent achievement of measures of early literacy skills/strategies (e.g., Neuman, 1996; Paratore & Edwards, 2011)
  • Concepts about print (including print knowledge and visually processing) and letter knowledge (including alphabetic recognition) were shown as two key variables predictive of later literacy achievement for early literacy learners (e.g., National Early Literacy Panel, 2009; Teale & Sulzby, 1986)
  • 60% of the kindergartners in neighborhoods where children did poorly in school did not own a single book. (Patterns of Book Ownership and Reading, D. Feitelson and Z. Goldstein)
  • Reading aloud to children at a young age can positively impact their brain development: When preschool children listen to stories, it activates the areas of their brains that are associated with processing images and narrative comprehension. (Pediatrics – Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • Dialogic reading works. Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development. Children can jump ahead by several months in just a few weeks of dialogic reading. (PEER method, CROWD prompts.) (Dialogic Reading: An Effective Way to Read to Preschoolers by Grover J. Whitehurst).

Additional Resources