We have examined new research from the UK that considers how reading with preschool children can impact early learning, as well as close the “stark gap in performance between children from higher and lower socio-economic backgrounds [that] has opened up by the time they have reached school.”
The Newcastle University study is titled “Parent-child reading to improve language development and school readiness: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” It concludes with seven recommendations for multiple audience groups, as well as a various conclusions.
Recommendations from Parent-Child Early Learning Reading Study
- Caregivers: “That knowledge about the role of parents as partners in active book reading be widely disseminated through all relevant early years organisations. Active book reading, and parental engagement with other electronic devices with young children helps to promote their language development and improves children’s chances of being ready for school.”
- Practitioners: “That all early years/ public health practitioner are aware that parent/child book reading activities need to be a part of the early years “offer” to parents and young children. This is relevant at a targeted selected and a targeted indicated level (ie with children in ‘at risk’ populations and with children individually identified as having delayed language development). It is important that these interventions could potentially be delivered by a number of different professional groups but should involve the type of support and instruction seen in the intervention studies described in this review.”
- Those Managing Services for Young Children: “That services are audited to establish where such interventions are being delivered. While the benefits of early reading are widely recognised it is not clear where the responsibility for this type of intervention lies or indeed whether systematic interventions of this type are being delivered in the UK.”
- Commissioners of Services: “That parent/child book reading should be an explicit element in the offer to young children and their families.Ultimately whether parent/child book reading interventions are available will depend on whether they are commissioned although it is recognised that they may already be part of the local ‘offer’ to parents. Our evidence suggests that commissioners should ensure that such interventions are available for all children, irrespective of how they are delivered locally.
- Commissioners of Research: “That there is a need for trials to be carried out within the current UK context and the new initiatives from the Nuffield Foundation and the Education Endowment Foundation provide an excellent opportunity to undertake such an evaluation. These would also allow for these interventions to be evaluated in the diverse UK population, which to date is a gap in the evidence base.”
- Researchers: “That there be a better understanding of the differential effects of book reading on different populations and of the mechanisms by which book reading is associated with other aspects of the child’s Home Learning Environment such as socio-economic status and maternal education; what are the differential relationships between these factors and parent-child book reading and child outcomes.”
- Policymakers: “That parent/child book reading, and its equivalents be a part of the offer to all children and their families and that this be woven into local responses to the Governments Social Mobility Strategy.”
Conclusions on Parent-Child Early Learning Reading
The report offers important conclusions, as well:
- “Interventions to promote language development and pre-reading are effective. The strongest impact is on children’s receptive vocabulary development.”
- “Although the results of interventions vary for children of different ages, book reading appeared to be most effective for children over three years old particularly in the development of receptive vocabulary.
- “Children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those from mixed backgrounds benefitted equally from book reading interventions in their expressive language development.”
- “Children from disadvantaged backgrounds benefitted more from book reading interventions than children from mixed backgrounds in terms of the impact intervention had on their receptive language development.”
- “The amount of intervention a child was exposed to did not influence how much the child’s language improved; relatively little input can have just as high an impact as more intensive intervention.”
- “Book reading interventions that involved training parents in a group had greater effects on children’s language development than interventions where parents where trained individually.”
- “Both studies that used a randomised design (where children are either randomly allocated to receive the intervention or to not receive the intervention, a control group) and those that used a quasi-experimental design (where the intervention group and control group are matched on characteristics) showed equally positive results for children’s language development.”
- “There is a great deal more that needs to be learned about the long-term consequence of early parent/child reading interventions in terms of their impact on educational attainment and longer-term outcomes.”