Helping foster families bond through books

18 Sep 2019
Dad sharing book with child attachment theory

Our Swindon Hub Manager Anish has a background in social work. She shares her first-hand experience of how shared reading can help children who are looked after feel more secure.

Shared reading is a vital experience in a young child’s life. As well as a tool for building early literacy and language, research has also looked into shared reading helping parents and children bond and promoting positive family relationships.

My background is in social work, having been a social worker in Bath and in my home town of Swindon for five years. In the world of social work, we talk about attachment theory, with the concept of attachment being thoroughly researched in the sector for many years.

Attachment theory comes from the idea that children are born with the innate desire to seek security and comfort from a primary caregiver. ‘Secure attachment’ is classified as a child who feels secure and safe with their caregiver, and if the caregiver leaves they feel confident that they will come back. Children who are securely attached are happy to explore the world around them, but they will return to the parent or make eye contact and check back when they need reassurance.

Reading physical books together, as well as sharing songs and rhymes, allow for a great amount of eye contact, cuddles and other physical and non-physical contact, which all support healthy attachment. Books are also a great tool to enrich a child’s understanding of the world, building empathy and social competence.

Research is now in its infancy on how books can help children who have insecure attachments, including children who are looked after. Booktrust have commissioned some recent research on how shared reading can support foster families. The research recommends that more needs to be done to give foster families the tools and skills they need to support children in their care through shared reading.

At the National Literacy Trust, we are now looking at ways to further support these families, through the localised work of our National Literacy Trust Hubs. This is an exciting time to look at how we can develop best practice, based on solid research. In my role as Swindon Hub Manager, it has been a pleasure to work with foster families in Swindon and share the importance of shared reading with them.

I’ve now developed a training package for foster carers on how shared reading can support secure attachments, including resources and tools they can use to support reluctant readers. This, alongside story sharing family sessions, book gifting and other programmatic work, has received wide support from families and professionals alike.

I am looking forward to continuing this important work and finding out more about the long-term impact of shared reading with children who are looked after. Secure attachment is fundamental to helping young children grow and learn, and we need to do all we can to support this vulnerable group to give them the best possible start in life.