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Play, Talk, Read

22/06/2011

A ground-breaking programme that has encouraged thousands of parents to play, talk and read more often with their children will be rolled out throughout Scotland over the coming year.

The Play, Talk, Read campaign - part of the Scottish Government's renewed focus on the early years of children's lives - builds on the campaign's success over the past two years.

The national drive - which includes TV adverts, a one-stop website for parents of young children and provides free items to help children's learning and development - is aimed at helping parents stimulate their children from birth through low-cost, fun activities.

This summer will see the next stage of the campaign rolled out with the return of the Play, Talk, Read roadshow appearing in locations across the country. TV and outdoor advertising will accompany the roadshows and the popular website will be featuring even more hints, tips and ideas for busy parents.

Announcing plans for the campaign during a visit to North Edinburgh Childcare Centre, Education Secretary Michael Russell said:

"The Play, Talk, Read campaign highlights how the first few years represent a golden opportunity for us to give our children the best possible start in life.

"Simply by playing, talking and reading with our children more often we can make a real difference to their development.

"Improving the life chances of all our children is a key priority for this government. By the age of three a child's brain is three-quarters of its adult size, with 50 per cent of language skills already developed, making the need to get the early years right beyond debate.

"As well as the benefits to the individual it makes good financial sense for the wider community. Every one pound invested in a child's early years can generate an eventual saving of nine pounds for the taxpayer."

This campaign is this Government's first step in providing more support and inspiration to parents. Independent evaluation of the campaign shows that the campaign is relevant and useful to parents, with more than three quarters of those interviewed saying it told them something new. The campaign has also inspired parents; with 79 per cent said they would try out some of the ideas suggested at home.

Minister for Children and Young People Angela Constance said the renewed campaign was just the start of a package of measures aimed at making the Early Years a key priority for the Scottish Government.

Ms Constance explained:

"There is growing and conclusive evidence that what happens before birth and through the early years of a child's life dictates their longer-term life chances. The Play, Talk, Read campaign is crucial as it has proved very effective in encouraging parents to engage with their children right from the start.

"There are hard-edged economic benefits to early intervention. Early and effective intervention can significantly reduce costs to the state, both in the short and long term, and deliver better results for the individuals involved.

"That is why I will be ready and willing to do whatever is necessary. We will start by investing £750,000 in expanding this groundbreaking programme. In addition we are developing a National Parenting Strategy which will ensure parents are supported to help their children reach their full potential. We will also establish a £50 million Early Years Change Fund and introduce legislation early on in this Parliamentary term to ensure that investment in early years is not just an optional extra."

The Play, Talk, Read campaign has been independently evaluated showing:

  • 70 per cent of targeted parents are aware of the campaign
  • It was viewed as being relevant (89 per cent), useful (90 per cent) and 74 per cent of parents believed that the advertising told them something new
  • 84 per cent realised that the more they played, talked and read, the greater the benefits would be for their child's learning and development
  • Those aware of the campaign were more likely to agree strongly that they should play, talk and read more, so that their child becomes a better learner
  • The campaign clearly inspired parents with 79 per cent saying they would try out some of the ideas suggested at home
  • All three behaviours were deemed more important for learning and behaviour than previously, with each reaching high levels: playing (82 per cent), talking (83 per cent) and reading (76 per cent). In the case of reading this was a 16 per cent uplift in perceived importance, following the campaign
  • Frequency of actual playing and reading behaviours increased following the campaign, with a seven per cent uplift in those playing several times a day and a seven per cent rise to 45 per cent for those reading at least once a day post campaign. Frequency of talking remained at a similarly high levels both pre and post campaign.

Field activity in the form of roadshows was also evaluated. Out of the 15,935 members of the public that the roadshows engaged with:

  • Most participants found them relevant (94 per cent) and useful (88 per cent)
  • 75 per cent of parents said they took away useful ideas from the roadshows
  • A wide variety of relevant, intended actions were given as a result of attending the road shows, with 30 per cent saying they would spend more time reading with their child
  • Most importantly, 91 per cent said they would use the free DVD or learning play cube at home, with a further eight per cent saying they are likely to do so, indicating an excellent level of behaviour change within the target audience