Remember being tucked up in bed while your mother or father sat beside you with a book? This is used to be a nightly habit for most families and I wonder if it still is. Way back in 2015, the Huffington Post reported that four out of five parents do not read bedtime stories to their children. EVEN THOUGH they believe it is important, some parents admitted they rather put their children in front of the television than read them a book.
Child psychologist, Tanya Bryon, warned that lack of reading can impair language growth, literacy and social skills development.
With that in mind, we can now ask a few pertinent questions:
DOES IT MATTER HOW OFTEN?
A research conducted by the University of Melbourne in 2012 for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development followed over 4000 children aged 4 – 5 years through to age 10 – 11 to explore the connections between parents reading to their young children and their later performance in reading and other cognitive skills.
They came to the conclusion that the frequency of reading to children prior to starting school has a direct causal effect on their children’s schooling outcomes. They achieved higher scores in NAPLAN tests for Reading and Numeracy in Year 3 and their skills were the same as other children a whole year older. This conclusion was reached regardless of the family background or home environment.
DOES IT MATTER WHEN?
The same study also concluded that the most effective period for cognitive skill investment by parents is early on in their children’s lives. This is because children who are ready to enter school with larger vocabularies and more advanced comprehension skills.
Murdoch University conducted a research on the importance of parents reading with children – even AFTER children can read and come to the conclusion that reading with children enabled parents to foster positive attitudes towards reading in childhood and beyond, turning their children into life-long readers.
DOES IT MATTER WHAT?
Books or Tablets? That is the question. A University of Sussex research paper found that children’s memory for the descriptions and narratives showed no difference between the two media. However, interactions between parents and children were found to be different. When using proper books, researchers found an increase in the warmth of the interactions – more laughter, more smiling, more shows of affection. Now, what can beat that?
As tablets become cheaper and more available, the temptation to switch to eBooks is increasingly greater. eBooks often come with sounds, animations and games which, while holding the children’s attention for longer, may distract them and reduce learning. Research suggests parents thoughtfully consider the benefits of eBooks for older children. However, the recommendation for children between 0 -2 years, is that tablet eBooks be restricted. Children that age benefits more from face-to-face interactions than from interactive screens.
DOES IT MATTER WHO?
Both parents are encouraged to read to their children. However, a study using data from the Let’s Read study indicates that when fathers read to their children at home, the child’s language development increased as they grew older. Among other things, this study takes into consideration the mother’s reading practices.
No matter how often, when, what or who does it, reading to children is an early-life intervention that seems to be beneficial for the rest of their lives.
The conclusion? It is important for children to be read to from an early age, by ALL adults, in their life.