Preschool Reading Boosts Language Skills by Eight Months

Eight months is a big difference in language skills when you are looking at children aged under five.
A new review of existing research finds that receptive language skills—the ability to understand information – are improved by the equivalent of eight months of development when preschool youngsters read with someone who cares for them.
Led by James Law, professor of Speech and Language Sciences at the UK’s Newcastle University, a team of experts carried out a systematic review of reading intervention studies from the past 40 years, using either a book or electronic readers, and where reading was carried out with a parent or carer.
Researchers were looking for effects
on receptive language (understanding), expressive language (where a child puts
their thoughts into words such as vocabulary and grammar), and pre-reading
skills (such as how words are structured). The results were positive for each
category but the biggest difference was with receptive language skills. The
review showed socially-disadvantaged children experienced slightly more benefit
than others.Professor Law said: “While we already knew reading with young children is
beneficial to their development and later academic performance, the eight-month
advantage this review identified was striking. Eight months is a big difference
in language skills when you are looking at children aged under five.“The fact we saw an effect with receptive language skills is very important.
This ability to understand information is predictive of later social and
educational difficulties. And research suggests it is these language skills
which are hardest to change.”The average age of the children involved in the 16 studies included in the
review, was 39 months and the review looked at studies from five countries: the
U.S., South Africa, Canada, Israel, and China.Numerous research studies have shown that children with delayed language
development do worse at school and have poorer outcomes later in life.The experts are now calling for public health authorities to promote book reading
to parents.“There have been lots of initiatives over the years to get books into the homes
of young children,” said Professor Law. “What we’re saying is that’s not
enough. Reading with small children has a powerful effect. For this reason, it
should be promoted through people like health visitors and other public health
professionals as this simple act has the potential to make a real difference.”
“Parent-child reading to improve
language-development and school readiness – A systematic review and meta-analysis,”
was written by James Law, Jenna Charlton, Cristina McKean, Fiona Beyer,
Cristina Fernandez-Garcia, Atefeh Mashayekhi & Robert Rush. Funding was
provided by the Nuffield Foundation http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/systematic-review-impact-parent-child-reading
and https://eprint.ncl.ac.uk/246226


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