The importance of parents reading aloud to their children has long been appreciated. Not only is the experience enjoyable for both parties, it also has scientifically measurable benefits. From previous studies, we are aware that when parents engage in reading aloud with their children, the children develop:
- Intensity in memory
- Early language skills
- Enhanced literacy skills
- Positive feelings resulting from one-on-one attention and
- Coping strategies important for processing stress and trauma
While we understand these benefits well, prior researcher has not sought to answer if children experience benefits beyond those listed. It also has not investigated if parents share some of the advantages.
Additional Benefits to Children
A new analysis of data, lead by Qian-Wen Xie of Hong Kong, looked at 18 studies of interventions following over 3,200 families. Parents were educated on proper structure for reading interventions and followed up with at times ranging from one to 48 months. Her findings concluded that children involved in reading programs also:
- Showed gains in psychosocial functioning
- Increased interest in reading
- Reported an improvement in their quality of life
- Succeeded further academically and
- Strengthened the bond with their parent
Previously Undocumented Benefits to Parents
Qian-Wen Xie further concluded that regardless of various ethnic and racial backgrounds, parents who participated in reading programs with their children reported feeling benefits not evident in those of the control groups of parents who did not participate. These benefits include:
- Feeling more competent as parents
- Experiencing a decrease in stress and anxiety levels
- Improved relationships with their children
- Better attitudes toward reading with their children
Further Research Needed to Better Understand Benefits
The analysis was unfortunately too broad to show exactly what measures impacted the success of reading programs. Some programs offered free books, while others focused on training parents, either one-on-one or in a group setting, in how to read with their children. The populations in each of the studies also widely varied. The ages ranged from toddler and preschool children to children in elementary school. Some of the studies used focused on students from low-income households while others targeted children with a high-risk for behavioral issues. The broadness of the analysis serves to show that reading programs are beneficial for children and their parents despite age, race or gender. Further research should be accomplished to discover what aspects of reading programs achieve the highest gains for parents and children with consideration for various ages and risk factors.
Though some parents may know that reading together is important, they may have limited time or a lack of quality books due to income. They also may not understand how to read with their children in a way that maximizes the mutual benefits. Parents who want to access these benefits for themselves and their children should look for reading programs. Many options are available through schools, libraries and community centers to help parents overcome these difficulties and reap the benefits of reading aloud together.
Be sure to read our previous article about how visiting your parents more often can increase their lifespan.
- Megan A. Moreno, MD, MSEd, MPH; Fred Furtner; Frederick P. Rivara, MD, MPH.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2012;166(11):1080. doi:10.1001/2013.jamapediatrics.412
- Qian-Wen Xie, Celia H.Y. Chan, Qingying Ji, Cecilia L.W. Chan. "Psychosocial Effects of Parent-Child Book Reading Interventions: A Meta-analysis." Pediatrics. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2018/03/23/peds.2017-2675