Home learning experiences such as reading books with parents can improve low-income preschool children’s readiness to start school, researchers say in a press report from Society for Research in Child Development.
The new study included more than 1,850 U.S. children and their mothers in families with household incomes at or below the federal poverty line.
During home visits when the children were ages 1, 2, 3, and 5 years, the New York University researchers looked at how often the children took part in literary activities (such as shared book reading), the quality of the mothers’ interactions with their children (such as exposing children to frequent and varied adult speech), and the availability of learning materials, including children’s books.
The researchers also assessed the number of words the children understood and their knowledge of letters and words at age 5.
Differences in the children’s home learning environment predicted their readiness to start school, according to the study in the current issue of the journal Child Development. For example, children whose home learning environment scores were consistently low were much more likely to have delays in language and literacy skills at pre-kindergarten than children who had high home learning scores.
HealthDay News reports the researchers saying, “Our findings indicate that enriched learning experiences as early as the first year of life are important to children’s vocabulary growth, which in turn provides a foundation for children’s later school success,” study leader Eileen T. Rodriguez said in a news release from the Society for Research in Child Development.
She and her colleagues also found that the course of a child’s early learning experiences were predicted by: children’s cognitive abilities as infants; mothers’ race and ethnicity, education and employment; and a family’s household income.
SixtySecondParent.com reports Rodriguez as saying, “Our findings indicate that enriched learning experiences as early as the first year of life are important to children’s vocabulary growth, which in turn provides a foundation for children’s later school success.”
They add, “Experiences that occur as children are poised to enter kindergarten also matter, particularly in contributing to children’s early reading skills. ‘Home learning experiences that are consistently supportive in the early years may close the school readiness gap of children from low-income backgrounds,’ notes Rodriguez.”
For more information, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association outlines activities to encourage speech and language development here.