Summary: According to researchers, reading with your preschool aged children can boost their language development by up to eight months. Receptive language skills are positively enhanced when a child reads along with a carer, the study reports.
Source: Newcastle University.
Parents and carers who regularly read with small children are giving them a language advantage of eight months, a study shows.
Led by James Law, Professor of Speech and Language Sciences in Newcastle University’s School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, a team of experts found that receptive language skills – the ability to understand information – are positively affected when pre-school youngsters read with someone who cares for them.
They carried out a systematic review of reading intervention studies from the past 40 years, using either a book or electronic readers and where reading was carried out with a parent or carer.
In the report, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the researchers were looking for effects on receptive language (understanding), expressive language (where a child puts their thoughts into words such as vocabulary and grammar) and pre-reading skills (such as how words are structured). The results were positive for each category but the biggest difference was with receptive language skills.
The review showed socially disadvantaged children experienced slightly more benefit than others.
Professor Law said: “While we already knew reading with young children is beneficial to their development and later academic performance, the eight month advantage this review identified was striking. Eight months is a big difference in language skills when you are looking at children aged under five.
“The fact we saw an effect with receptive language skills is very important. This ability to understand information is predictive of later social and educational difficulties. And research suggests it is these language skills which are hardest to change.”
The average age of the children involved in the 16 studies included in the review, was 39 months and the review looked at studies from five countries: the USA, South Africa, Canada, Israel and China.
Numerous research studies have shown that children with delayed language development do worse at school and have poorer outcomes later in life.
The experts are now calling for public health authorities to promote book reading to parents.
“There have been lots of initiatives over the years to get books into the homes of young children,” said Professor Law. “What we’re saying is that’s not enough. Reading with small children has a powerful effect. For this reason, it should be promoted through people like health visitors and other public health professionals as this simple act has the potential to make a real difference.”
Funding: Nuffield Foundation funded this study.
Source: Newcastle University
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Original Research: The study “Parent-child reading to improve language development and school readiness: A systematic review and meta-analysis” by James Law, Jenna Charlton, Cristina McKean, Fiona Beyer, Cristina Fernandez-Garcia, Atefeh Mashayekhi & Robert Rush
is available for free via the University of Newcastle website.
Parent-child reading to improve language development and school readiness: A systematic review and meta-analysis
For a number of years now population studies have shown us that parental book reading in the early years is an important feature of what is sometimes called the child’s Home Learning Environment (HLE) and appears to protect children from later difficulties. But is it possible to intervene to increase parental book reading and what difference does it make to key areas of child development such as oral language and pre-reading skills? There have been a number of reviews of the intervention literature (systematic and narrative) but these have included a mixture of different types of studies and ages of children and have a variety of different foci. In this report we carry out a narrowly constrained systematic review focusing specifically on book reading interventions carried out specifically by parents and carers with preschool children (up to the age of five years) and looking primarily at the impact of parent child reading interventions on expressive and receptive language and pre-reading skills.