Research shows reading to infants boosts later language, literacy and numeracy skills

by Freya Lucas

June 12

By reading a daily book with infants aged one to two years, parents and caregivers can boost the language, literacy and numeracy success of children later in life, researchers from Charles Sturt University have found.

 

The research has implications not only for those education and care professionals who will work with children throughout their academic lives, but also broader societal implications, given that literacy difficulties can have long-term implications for quality of life, employment, and mental health.

 

Lead researcher and post-doctoral Research Fellow in the School of Teacher Education in Albury-Wodonga, Dr Michelle Brown, said that whilst the benefits of parents and caregivers reading to their children had been extensively proven, up until now, there was limited evidence to demonstrate that reading books with infants (aged one to two years) strengthens later literacy skills.

 

The positive findings of the study, she said, suggest that parents and caregivers should “not only be informed about the long-term academic benefits to be gained from parent-child book reading during infancy, but they should be encouraged and provided with support to engage in high levels of parent-child book-reading daily.”

 

Working alongside colleagues Dr Cen Wang and Professor Sharynne McLeod, Dr Brown examined the long-term impact of caregiver/parent-child book reading at one to two years with literacy, language, and numeracy skills at eight to 11 years.

 

Over 3,500 infants participated in the study, which was nationally representative, and involved caregivers reporting on the number of minutes spent reading books with their infants (aged one to two years). These reports were then examined in conjunction with literacy, language, and numeracy skills on a national assessment program (NAPLAN) in grades three (aged eight to nine years) and five (aged 10 to 11 years).

 

Small and positive relationships were found between parent-child book reading at one to two years and reading, spelling, grammar, and numeracy scores in grade three (aged eight to nine years) and reading, writing, spelling, and grammar scores in grade five (aged 10 to 11 years).

 

Numeracy outcomes in grade three (aged eight to nine years) and writing outcomes in grade five (ages 10 to 11 years) were also positively predicted from parent-child book reading at ages one to two years.

 

Given the positive findings, Dr Brown said parents and early childhood educators should be informed about the long-term academic benefits from daily book reading during infancy and provided with support to engage in high levels of book-reading to promote later literacy, language, and numeracy success.

 

The research paper ‘Reading with babies impacts literacy, language and numeracy skills at eight to nine years’ by Dr Michelle Brown, Dr Cen Wang and Professor Sharynne McLeod was presented by Dr Brown at the annual national Speech Pathology Australia Conference  on Wednesday 5 June 2019, and will shortly be available via the Speech Pathology Australia website as a podcast.

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