Impact evaluation of “Nati per Leggere Piemonte”
The Ing. Rodolfo Debenedetti Foundation, in collaboration with Compagnia di San Paolo, the Piedmont Region and the Regional School Office, carried out the impact assessment of the “Nati per Leggere Piemonte” (NpL Piemonte) initiative. The project, which has been in existence for almost 20 years, is the development on a regional basis of the national “Nati per Leggere” initiative, aimed at promoting reading aloud with children from birth to the age of 6. NpL is based on the idea, confirmed by numerous scientific studies, that reading in the first years of life favors children cognitive and relational development. For this reason, it connects the book sector with the school and health sectors, building a network of partners that collaborate with each other with the purpose to connect with families and spread the habit of reading aloud to children of pre-school age. The impact assessment carried out by the Ing. Rodolfo Debenedetti Foundation aimed to understand if NpL Piemonte has actually achieved these objectives.
The final report estimates the impact of implemented activities on a number of outcomes of interest:
- reading habits, time spent on other activities and other indicators related to family relationships, measured through a questionnaire administered to parents of pupils enrolled in the second and fifth classes of primary school in the 2020/2021 school year;
- educational skills in Italian and Mathematics, measured by INVALSI standardised tests in the second and fifth classes of primary school over the years 2010-2019.
In both cases, the impact assessment is based on a comparison between students who potentially participated in NpL activities and students who did not have that opportunity, according to their year and place of birth.
The results of the questionnaire show that NpL contributes to an increase in the frequency with which parents read aloud to their pre-school children. The program also stimulates children’s enjoyment of reading: exposed children show a higher frequency of reading and are more likely to choose reading as one of their favourite activities. Furthermore, NpL seems to decrease children’s interest in electronic devices, resulting in less time spent using video games and computers and a lower likelihood of owning a smartphone. Finally, participation in NpL increases the time parents spend at the library with their children. No significant effects emerged on the parent-child relationship.
Looking at the INVALSI data, the cohorts exposed to the programme between 0 and 6 years of age do not show improved test performance on average. However, some groups of students in the second year of primary school - males, from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and foreigners - show significant improvements in the Italian test, as a result from (potential) participation in NpL. The positive effects on these groups of students, who are typically characterised by a lower average academic performance and skill set, contribute to a partial reduction of educational gaps. Furthermore, it becomes clear that long-term and continuous exposure to NpL is essential, as these effects only emerge for cohorts exposed for a period of at least 5-6 years.
The survey in primary schools
The questionnaire administered in primary schools represents one of the main tools of the impact evaluation. In fact, the survey made it possible to investigate the leisure time of primary school children, with a focus on two topics: the attitude toward reading and the use of electronic devices. Indeed, the survey made it possible to investigate whether the reading habit developed at an early age could possibly influence the relationship (and intensity of use) of electronic devices by primary school children. Finally, thanks to the questionnaire, it was also possible to understand the actual knowledge of and participation in NpL by the parents of primary school children. Furthermore, thanks to the questionnaire, it was also possible to understand the actual knowledge of and participation in NpL by the parents of primary school children.
Specifically, the survey collected the following information:
- Socio-demographic information of the student (age, sex, school and attended class)
- Socio-demographic information of the family (age, sex, parents’ educational qualification)
- Attendance of nursery school and kindergarten
- Favorite activities of the child
- Usage of electronic devices (PC, tablet, TV, videogames, etc.)
- Attitude toward reading
- Attendance of the library
- Knowledge of the program “Nati per Leggere”
- Parent-child relationship
The questionnaire was administered online between April and June 2021 to a sample of families with children attending primary schools. Schools were selected in municipalities that either implemented (“treated”) or not implemented (“controls”) NPL activities. The collaboration of schools was key in carrying out this activity. The survey involved 144 primary schools, where a total of 1761 questionnaires were completed (35% response rate).
For more details on the content and results of the questionnaire, you can download the questionnaire and the evaluation report. Section 4 in particular focuses on questionnaire.
The researchers at the Fondazione Ing. Rodolfo Debenedetti collected anonymous data, in which the name and surname of the student and his family remain unknown. The information collected in the questionnaire was only used for the purposes of this research and was processed in such a way that the identity of the families and children could not be traced.