When Should You Start Reading To Your Child?

reading baby small

At what age is it optimal for parents to begin reading to their children? Birth? Six Months old?

The objective of the article that I chose for Research Tuesday, Effects of shared parent-infant book reading on early language acquisition, was to examine at what age shared reading begins to impact later emergent literacy skills. We know that reading to your child helps build vocabulary, improves the bond between a parent and their child, and increases overall literacy skills in older children but what does the research say about when we should start? In this research study, there were 87 typically developing infants and their parents that participated. The parents visited the research lab at 4-months, 8-months, 12-months, and 16-months of age. The parents completed an infant care questionnaire and a maternal interview on language development and were asked whether they engaged in shared book reading with their child. The babies were evaluated using the Bayley Mental Scale, which assessed language development, following directions, identifying objects and labeling. The results showed that shared book reading at 8-months was linked to later expressive language abilities at 12 and 16 months.
The study showed that shared book reading at 4-months was not a predictor of later expressive language. However, when shared reading began at 8 months, it was linked to improved expressive language skills at 12 months and 16 months. Although beginning shared reading at 4 months old was not a predictor of later language skills in this particular study, it is very important to get in the habit of reading to your child so that when a baby is 8 months of age, it is part of a natural routine. In my family life, reading together is very special, and both the kids and I treasure it. I started reading to them at birth, and I find that my daughter’s vocabulary is advanced and diverse. Also, the earlier you begin reading to your child, the better. My mother treasures books and has always encouraged reading. Some of my best memories as a child was cuddling up with my mom reading my favorite books. These are the same books that I am reading to my children today.

What makes some people more inclined to read to their child than others? How can we get more parents to read to their children? How can we get a parent to read to their child at the early stages in language and learning development?

There was another interesting article that I wanted to discuss titled Newborn literacy program effective in increasing maternal engagement in literacy activities: an observational cohort study that looked at the effects of giving a reading and literacy program to mothers of newborns at the hospital. The program called “Read to Me” is a literacy program that includes books and other literacy materials for babies. In the study, there were two groups of mothers. The first group of mothers received the program “Read to Me” at the hospital upon the birth of their babies, and the other group did not receive the program. A phone questionnaire was conducted at a later time consisting of questions regarding duration and frequency of a mother’s engagement in literacy and language activities with their babies. The results found that mothers who received the literacy package at the hospital spent 40% more time reading to their children than the other group. This study looked at one way of getting caregivers to read to their babies. As a therapist and a parent, we need to look at these studies and use them to educate others to the benefits of reading to their babies and find out what resources a parent may need.

Need some tips on how to read to your child? Check out this article on promoting language during bookreading time on the Hanen Website.

To get more information about Research Tuesdays, visit Gray Matter Therapy.

Karras, J. & Braungart-Rieker, J. (2005). Effects of shared parent-infant book reading on early language acquisition. Applied Developmental Psychology, 26, 133-148.

Zanten, Stephanie Veldhuijzen Van, Chrystal Coates, Marilou Hervas-Malo, and Patrick J. Mcgrath. “Newborn Literacy Program Effective in Increasing Maternal Engagement in Literacy Activities: An Observational Cohort Study.” BMC Pediatrics 12.1 (2012): 100. Print.



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