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New research shows that BookFun strengthens children’s language skills, self-confidence and access to their community

The Mary Foundation’s new project, BookFun, gives preschool children more words – and the confidence to use them. The children gain self-confidence and become better at maintaining and fostering new relationships with other children. This is what the research results linked to the roll-out of the project in Danish schools have revealed.

28 August 2012

Today, HRH Crown Princess Mary visited Svanen preschool in Brøndby along with the Minister for Children and Education, Christine Antorini, and the Mayor of Brøndby, Ib Terp, in order to mark the fact that The Mary Foundation’s BookFun project is now available to every preschool in Denmark. Svanen’s children and teachers also provided a little demonstration on how they work with BookFun, and the Danish musician and teacher Hr. Skæg (Mr Beard) performed for the children.

BookFun is a pedagogical tool that The Mary Foundation – in collaboration with experts in the field – has developed for use in Danish preschools. BookFun is based on the dialogic reading method which has been proven by international research to have a well-documented effect on increasing children’s vocabulary and strengthening their communication skills, and thus helping them to find their way into their community.

The follow-up research into the pilot phase of BookFun was made public in a presentation by The Mary Foundation’s director, Helle Østergaard.

“The research shows that BookFun works. The children who have participated in the BookFun programme have developed significantly better communication skills than the children from the control group, who have had the books read aloud to them in the conventional way. And in addition to this, the feedback from teachers has been overwhelmingly positive – they find that BookFun is an easy-to-use tool that supports language development and the inclusion of children. The children learn new words, gain the confidence to use them and become better at developing and maintaining relationships. And this is what BookFun has been designed to do – to give all children access to their community,” explains The Mary Foundation’s director, Helle Østergaard.

Maiken Bækgaard, a teacher at Svanen preschool in Brøndby, used BookFun during the pilot phase and is looking forward to continuing working with this pedagogical activity – which was also warmly adopted by the children.

“BookFun has been a very good challenge for me as a professional in relation to the pedagogical work surrounding language and reading aloud. Having a pedagogical tool in my hands that not only strengthens inclusion by fostering new relationships in the group, but also develops the children's language skills, has been fantastic. We now have children who taste the words and who have gained more self-confidence – to offer suggestions when we are talking about words and concepts, among other things” says Maiken Bækgaard.

As of today, preschools can order BookFun at www.læseleg.dk. The BookFun pack consists of four selected children’s books, a professional booklet, a DVD with instructions and booklets and costs DKK 850.

Facts about BookFun

  • BookFun was developed by The Mary Foundation, comes under the Bullying and Well-being focus area, and has The Obel Family Foundation as its financial partner.
  • BookFun is based on the dialogic reading method, which involves reading aloud in small reading groups. The same book is read aloud several times and the adult asks the child questions along the way and relates what’s being read to the child’s daily life. Creative activities are then used to delve into the stories in more depth and use “good words”.

The follow-up research linked to BookFun

  • BookFun underwent a trial phase as part of a four-month pilot project that began in September 2011. A total of nine preschools in Brøndby, Odense and Aalborg took part in the pilot programme.
  • During the trial period, the project was closely followed by Kristine Jensen de López, a professor in developmental psychology at Aalborg University, who was responsible for the follow-up research.
  • Ninety-six randomly selected children aged between three and six took part in the follow-up research. Half of the children participated in BookFun, and the other half (the control group) had the books that were used in BookFun read aloud to them in the conventional way. In addition to this, the research is also based on 36 individual interviews with a total of 18 teachers who tested BookFun, as well as on observations of selected quiet children. This initiative has provided the most in-depth understanding of the effect of dialogic reading in Denmark to date.
  • The results show that the children who participated in the BookFun programme had developed significantly better communication skills in comparison with those children (the control group) who had simply had the same book read aloud to them in the conventional way.
  • The BookFun children had a better vocabulary of unfamiliar words and were better able to explain the difficult words used in the BookFun books.
  • The BookFun children in the 3-4 year-old age group were also significantly better at naming new words quickly and fluently in comparison with the children in the control group – an ability which will have an influence on the children’s future reading skills. The better children are at naming new words in preschool, the better their reading skills are likely to be in the future.
  • The teachers indicated that they were very satisfied with BookFun and highlighted the following aspects as being among the project’s strengths:
  • BookFun fosters creative children and adults
  • BookFun creates the time, calmness and room for reading aloud with the children
  • BookFun improves the potential for social inclusion in the preschool
  • BookFun supports children with language difficulties
  • BookFun helps the quiet children to become more open and able to use the language – and it gives them self-confidence
  • BookFun gets the children to see each other, to develop new relationships with playmates, and to foster new communities
  • BookFun strengthens the relationship with the individual child