Increase in Children Who Benefit from Regular Reading and Story Telling

Definition

Through 2007, the National Household Education Survey measured the percentage of pre-kindergarten children ages three to five who were read to by a family member every day in the week prior to the interview, as reported by an adult in the household. Other choices included “not at all,” “once or twice,” and “three or more times.” In 2012, to reflect new response options in the National Household Education Survey, the criterion for this indicator was changed to children who had a family member read to them at least seven times in the past week.1

This indicator, measured at the child level, can be calculated as the number of infants and toddlers (age zero to three) who had a family member read to them/tell stories at least seven times in the past week, divided by the total number of infants and toddlers in the state/community.

  • 1. Murphey, D., Cooper, M., & Forry, N. (2013) The youngest Americans: A statistical portrait of infants and toddlers in the United States. Bethesda, MD: Child Trends. https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/MCCORMICK-FINAL.pdf

Just under half of children ages birth to two years (46%) were read to by a family member every day during the past week. Children in families with higher levels of income are more likely to be read to regularly: about three in 10 young children living in poverty are read to every day, compared to six in 10 children who live in families with higher incomes. White children are about twice as likely as Latinos to have family members read to them frequently; Black children fall in between. About two-thirds of infants and toddlers experience [singing songs or telling stories] every day, according to their parents. Young children who live in low-income households are less likely than their peers in wealthier families to be sung to or told stories every day. Black and Latino infants and toddlers are less likely than their white counterparts to have this experience.

— Excerpted from “The Youngest Americans: A Statistical Portrait of Infants and Toddlers in the United States”1

The Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health provides state estimates from 2016 for children ages zero to five years through the National Survey of Children’s Health. Data are collected on family health and activities including family reads to children and family sings and tells stories to children. Sub-group breakdowns are available by child race/ethnicity, household income, family structure, health care needs, and by rural, urban, or commuter areas. The Kids Count Data Center also provides state estimates for the number and percent of children under age six whose family members read to them less than four days per week.

  • 1. Murphey, D., Cooper, M., & Forry, N. (2013) The youngest Americans: A statistical portrait of infants and toddlers in the United States. Bethesda, MD: Child Trends. https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/MCCORMICK-FINAL.pdf

Population and sub-population estimates are not available at the community level. However, an individual community may be collecting data for this indicator through a specific program or organization, such as a home visiting program. It is recommended that the community evaluate whether relevant data are being collected, how, and for whom (i.e., which sub-populations). If it is determined that no data on this indicator are currently being collected, the community could work with local organizations to determine how to collect these data moving forward. For instance, home visiting programs that are already collecting survey data from mothers in their program might be able to add questions about how often they read to their children using the wording above. Then, once that is implemented, a community could evaluate if there are other locations, such as a pediatrician’s office, where these data could be collected on other mothers of infants and toddlers in the community.

Research Rationale

Children develop literacy skills and an awareness of language long before they are able to read.1 Since language development is fundamental to all areas of learning, skills developed early in life can help set the stage for later school success. By reading aloud to their young children, parents help them acquire the skills they will need to be ready for school.23 Children who lack a strong foundation of language awareness and literacy skills early in life are more likely to fall behind in school4 and are more likely to drop out.5

Shared parent-child book reading during children’s preschool years leads to higher reading achievement in elementary school,6 as well as greater enthusiasm for reading and learning.7 Young children who are regularly read to have a larger vocabulary, higher levels of phonological, letter name, and sound awareness, and better success at decoding words.8 The number of words in a child’s vocabulary can be an important indicator of later academic success. Children’s vocabulary used at age three is a strong predictor of language skill and reading comprehension at ages nine to 10.9 Further, vocabulary use in first grade can predict more than 30% of 11th-grade reading comprehension.1011

  • 1. Biemiller, A. (2001). Teaching vocabulary: Early, direct, and sequential. The American Educator, 25(1), 24-28.
  • 2. Murphey, D., Cooper, M., & Forry, N. (2013) The youngest Americans: A statistical portrait of infants and toddlers in the United States. Bethesda, MD: Child Trends. https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/MCCORMICK-FINAL.pdf
  • 3. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis/index.htm
  • 4. Bus, A. G., van IJzendoorn, M. H., & Pellegrini, A. D. (1995). Joint book reading makes for success in learning to read: A meta-analysis on intergenerational transmission of literacy. Review of Education Research, 65(1), 1-21.
  • 5. Missal, K., Reschley, A., Betts, J., McConnell, S., Heistad, D., Pickart, M., Sheran, C., Marston, D. (2007). Examination of the predictive validity of preschool early literacy skills. School Psychology Review, 36(3), 433-452.
  • 6. Kuo, A.A., Franke, T.M., Regalado, M., & Halfon, N. (2004). Parent report of reading to young children. Pediatrics, 113(6), 1944-1951.
  • 7. Armbruster, B., Lehr, F., & Osborn, J. (2002). Teaching our youngest: A guide for preschool teachers and child care and family providers. Early Childhood Task Force. US Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: http://www.ed.gov/teachers/how/early/teachingouryoungest/index.html
  • 8. Burgess, S. R., Hecht, S. A., & Lonigan, C. J. (2002). Relations of the home literacy environment (HLE) to the development of reading-related abilities: A oneyear longitudinal study. Reading Research Quarterly, 37(4), 408-426.
  • 9. Hart, B., & Risley, T. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experiences of young American children. Baltimore, MD: Brookes
  • 10. Biemiller, A. (2001). Teaching vocabulary: Early, direct, and sequential. The American Educator, 25(1), 24-28.
  • 11. Biemiller, A. (2001). Teaching vocabulary: Early, direct, and sequential. The American Educator, 25(1), 24-28.