• The impact of books on social inclusion and development and well-being among children and young people with severe and profound learning disabilities: recognising the unrecognised cohort

      Robinson, Deborah; Moore, Nicki; Harris, Catherine; University of Derby; Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (Wiley, 2019-02-07)
      This paper presents the findings of an original research project commissioned by BookTrust, a respected UK charity that gifts books to children, young people (CYP) and their families. It explored the impact and modus of pleasurable engagement with books among CYP with severe and profound learning disabilities and applied a critical, phenomenological stance on what it means to read through drawing on 'inclusive literacy' as a conceptual framework. Data was collected from four local areas in England and included 43 CYP aged 4-14. In keeping with a phenomenological stance, it employed interpretivist methods involving 13 deep-level interviews with families to include observations and structured play; 13 observations of CYP sharing books with others in home, play or school settings, and interviews with 27 practitioners working in a range of organisations (e.g. Portage service, advisory teams). Findings were that books had a positive impact on well-being, social inclusion and development. CYP were engaged in enjoying the content of books through personalisation, sensory stimulation, social stimulation and repetition. This affirmed the theoretical and practical approaches espoused by 'inclusive literacy' but made a critical and original contribution to our understanding of the special place that books occupy as ordinary artefacts of literary citizenship among this cohort. The benefits of volitional reading among CYP who do not have learning disabilities are well known but the authors urge publishers and policy makers to recognise CYP with severe and profound learning disabilities as equally important, active consumers of books who have much to gain from reading for pleasure. There is strong evidence of the positive relationship between reading for pleasure and attainment, emotional and economic wellbeing. Reading books for pleasure has strong associations with emotional and personal development including self-understanding. This is shown to be the case across genders and socioeconomic groups but significantly less research has been done on the impact of reading books for pleasure among people with learning disabilities. This paper provides an original account of the impact of pleasurable reading and engagement with books on children and young people (CYP) with severe learning disabilities (SLD) and profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). It demonstrates that responsive adults support pleasurable engagement with books and reading in ways that enable children and young people with reading disabilities to develop sensory, shared focus, communication, social and cultural understanding whilst also providing a basis for shared attention, closeness and wellbeing. Provided is account of the modus of pleasurable reading and engagement with books within the conceptual frame of inclusive literacy and phenomenological conceptions of what it means to read. Effective practices are illustrated and outlined to include recognition of the importance of multi-modal texts, personalisation and intense dyadic interaction. The paper urges policy makers and publishers to recognises CYP with SLD and PMLD as important, active consumers of books, claiming that their relative absence from consideration of positive impacts is a sign of exclusive conceptualisations of what it means to be a literate citizen.