Proof of benefits of reading to children

Proof of benefits of reading to children

MELBOURNE researchers have proven what parents have intuitively known all along – the more often you read to your children from an early age, the greater the positive effect on their reading and thinking skills.

The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research has not only proven a causal effect between the frequency of reading to a child and his or her development, but have also for the first time measured the benefits.

Children four to five years old who are read to three to five times a week have the same reading ability as children six months older (who are read to only twice or less a week).

Reading to children six to seven days a week puts them almost a year ahead of those who are not being read to. It was also found that reading to small children has a positive effect on the development of numeracy skills.

”It does appear to be the case that children who are read to more often keep doing better as they age than other children,” said Professor Guyonne Kalb, director of the institute’s Labour Economics and Social Policy Program, and co-author of the study.

The research – which was funded by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development – found the positive outcomes occurred in children regardless of parental income, education level or cultural background. That is, children with poor backgrounds or parents of limited education or ability have the same benefit of being read to frequently.

”We wanted to try and determine whether reading itself is leading to better outcomes, or do parents who read to their children have other things going on,” Professor Kalb said.

”We worked with children representing a whole range of families, from all different backgrounds and economic circumstances. We found it doesn’t matter if a child is from a poor or rich family, or if the parents are highly educated or not, doing this basic thing of reading to them leads to better developmental outcomes.”

The longitudinal study followed the reading skills of more than 4000 children, aged four to five years in 2004, through to age 10 to 11.

Victorian Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development Wendy Lovell said the research was ”an exciting step forward” in understanding the importance of reading to young children.

”These findings send a clear message to parents, grandparents, teachers and carers that the benefits of reading go way beyond a shared bonding experience.”

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(Source: Sydney Herald Sun)

Key Findings

The frequency of reading to children at a young age has a direct causal effect on their schooling outcomes regardless of their family background and home environment.

  • Reading to children at age 4-5 every day has a significant positive effect on their reading skills and cognitive skills (i.e., language and literacy, numeracy and cognition) later in life.
  • Reading to children 3-5 days per week (compared to 2 or less) has the same effect on the child’s reading skills at age 4-5 as being six months older.
  • Reading to them 6-7 days per week has the same effect as being almost 12 months older.
  • Children read to more frequently at age 4-5 achieve higher scores on the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests for both Reading and Numeracy in Year 3 (age 8 to 9).
  • These differences in reading and cognitive skills are not related to the child’s family background or home environment but are the direct result of how frequently they have been read to prior to starting school. (source: Department of Education and Training)




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