Reading with children starting in infancy gives lasting literacy boost
PAS Meeting Updates
SAN FRANCISCO – New research at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting shows
that reading books with a child beginning in early infancy can boost vocabulary and
reading skills four years later, before the start of elementary school.
The abstract, “Early Reading Matters: Long-term Impacts of Shared Bookreading with
Infants and Toddlers on Language and Literacy Outcomes,” will be presented on Monday,
May 8, at the Moscone West Convention Center in San Francisco.
“These findings are exciting because they suggest that reading to young children,
beginning even in early infancy, has a lasting effect on language, literacy and early
reading skills,” said Carolyn Cates, PhD, lead author and research assistant professor
in the department of pediatrics at New York University (NYU) School of Medicine. “What
they’re learning when you read with them as infants,” she said, “still has an effect
four years later when they’re about to begin elementary school.”
Mothers and their babies were recruited from the newborn nursery of an urban public
hospital, with more than 250 pairs monitored between ages of 6 months and 4 and a
half years (54 months) for how well they could understand words, and for early literacy
and reading skills. The study was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute
of Child Health and Human Development.
The findings were compared with the quantity of shared book-reading, such as the number
of books in the home and days per week spent reading together. Quality of shared book-reading
was gauged by asking whether parents had conversations with their child about the
book while reading, whether they talked about or labeled the pictures and the emotions
of the characters in the book and whether the stories were age-appropriate.
Adjusting for socioeconomic differences, the researchers found that reading quality
and quantity of shared book-reading in early infancy and toddlerhood predicted child
vocabulary up to four years later, prior to school entry. Book-reading quality during
early infancy, in particular, predicted early reading skills while book-reading quantity
and quality during toddler years appeared strongly tied to later emergent literacy
skills, such as name-writing at age 4.
The results highlight the importance of parenting programs used in pediatric primary
care that promote shared book-reading soon after birth, Dr. Cates said, such as Read
Out and Read and the Video Interaction Project..
The Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Meeting brings together thousands of individuals
united by a common mission: to improve child health and well-being worldwide. This
international gathering includes pediatric researchers, leaders in academic pediatrics,
experts in child health, and practitioners. The PAS Meeting is produced through a
partnership of four organizations leading the advancement of pediatric research and
child advocacy: Academic Pediatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American
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