Tokyo: A sleepover programme – designed to make kids believe that their favourite stuffed toys enjoy reading – can help encourage children to pick up more books, a new study suggests. Stuffed animal sleepover programmes are designed to get children interested in picture books. Children take their toys to a library for the night.
Researchers including those from Osaka Institute of Technology in Japan organised a “book-night party”, a typical stuffed animal sleepover programme for about 42 preschool children. The children’s behaviour was observed on that day, after three days and one month later, to determine the effect and how long it lasts.
It was found that before the sleepover the children did not spend time looking at the books in their play area at preschool. Immediately after the sleepover, the number of children who read to the stuffed animals was significantly higher than the number who did not, but after three days the effect had worn off.
The researchers also tested an approach for sustaining the effect; they reminded the children of the sleepover a month later, by hiding the stuffed animals and showing them the photos again the next day. This simple method led to a significant increase in the number of children reading to their stuffed animals.
The study reveals for the first time that children who take part in stuffed animal sleepover programs read picture books to their stuffed animals significantly more. “We wanted to know if there really was an effect, and if so, how long it lasts,” said Yoshihiro Okazaki of Okayama University in Japan.
“Surprisingly, not only did the children show interest in the picture books, but they also began to read to their stuffed animals,” said Okazaki. “This means that a new behaviour pattern emerged that the children had not exhibited before, we did not expect anything like this,” he added.
Reading is important for the development of children’s language skills and imagination. When parents read to their children, it is a passive form of reading for the child. However, when children read to their stuffed animals, it is a more spontaneous, self-directed form of reading, helping them develop into more active readers researchers said. The study was published in the journal Heliyon.