Parents who read with their children when they are still babies can give a boost to their vocabulary and reading skills that lasts for years to come, according to new research set to be presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting on May 8.
Funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the study recruited more than 250 pairs of mothers and their babies and monitored the children's literacy skills between the ages of 6 months and 4 and a half years.
The research team looked at the quantity of shared book-reading between mothers and infants, including the number of books in the home and the number of days per week spent reading together.
The team also measured the quality of shared book-reading, by looking at whether the stories were age-appropriate and by asking parents if they had conversations with their child about the book while reading it, such as talking about the book's pictures and the emotions of the characters.
After taking into account socioeconomic differences, the team found that both the quality and quantity of shared book-reading between parents and children in early infancy had a positive effect on language, vocabulary, and literary skills, with results lasting up to four years later, before the start of elementary school.
The quality of the book-reading had a particularly strong effect on early reading skills, with book-reading quantity and quality together having a strong effect on children's later literacy skills, such as being able to write their name at age 4.
Describing the findings as "exciting," lead author Carolyn Cates commented that the results highlight the importance of parenting programs that promote shared book-reading soon after birth, such as Read Out and Read and the Video Interaction Project.