Research shows books are best for kids’ learning

Two women sit on a couch with two girls, reading with them.

New Australian research of almost 5,000 children has found that books – not prestigious schools or expensive gadgets – are best for children’s learning.

The study showed that parents who read regularly to their toddlers have children with better language skills as they grow older, and also have a stronger likelihood of better academic achievement.

The research also found the benefits of reading to children were actually greater for children from lower socioeconomic families. This might be due to the possibility of wealthier families’ providing a broader range of other learning opportunities, while reading will compensate for the lack of such resources in less advantaged families. The study was published in the Journal of Scientific Studies of Reading and was led by Australian Catholic University’s Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education researcher Dr Ameneh (UM-EN-NAY) Shahaeian (SHA-HAR-EE-YUN).

“This research proves the old adage ‘the simple things in life are often the best’,” Dr Shahaeian said.

“Too often the ‘best’ option is seen to be an expensive device, or attending a specific school, which is out of reach to many. These results show that reading to children as early as (and as often as) possible can have long-lasting benefits for later school success, not only in literacy but also in mathematics.”

Dr Shahaeian added the multiple benefits of early shared reading included children’s exposure to new words and the opportunity to solve new problems and understand more abstract concepts.

“For busy parents the message is a simple one. If there’s only one thing you can do with your children it should be reading.”

The research also found the more frequently parents read to their two-year-old children, the more likely it is that the children would have better knowledge of spoken words. At the age of four, the same children had early academic skills, including the ability to recognise and copy geometric shapes, and write letters, words and numbers. More importantly, when these children were six to eight years of age, the research found that their frequent, early shared reading during toddlerhood was linked to NAPLAN reading, writing, spelling and grammar ability, and more surprisingly mathematics grades.

The study used data from a large scale nationwide study called the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children which has followed the development of children and families since 2004.

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