The Importance of Early Literacy and Early Intervention

  • Children who live in print-rich environments and who are read to during the first years of life are more likely to learn to read on schedule.
  • 16% of parents of children age three years and younger do not read at all with their children, and 23% do so only once or twice a week.*
  • Percentages are even lower among low-income families, whose children face the highest risk of literacy problems.
  • Reading difficulty contributes to school failure, which increases the risk of absenteeism, leaving school, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and teenage pregnancy — all of which perpetuate the cycles of poverty and dependency.
  • Families living in poverty often lack the money to buy new books, as well as access to libraries. Parents who may not have been read to as children themselves may not realize the tremendous value of reading to their own children.
  • Educators and developmental psychologists have long considered reading aloud to children important in helping those children develop early literacy skills. *Young, KT, Davis K, Schoen C, et al: Listening to parents. A national survey of parents with young children. Arch. Pediatr Adolesc Med 1998;152:255

Reading Aloud Helps Children Acquire Early Language Skills

  • Reading aloud is widely recognized as the single most important activity leading to literacy acquisition.  Among other things, reading aloud builds word-sound awareness in children, a potent predictor of reading success.
  • “Children who fall seriously behind in the growth of critical early reading skills have fewer opportunities to practice reading. Evidence suggests that these lost practice opportunities make it extremely difficult for children who remain poor readers during the first three years of elementary school to ever acquire average levels of reading fluency.” Torgeson, J. Avoiding the Devasting Downward Spiral, American Educator. (2004)
  • Reading aloud to young children is not only one of the best activities to stimulate language and cognitive skills; it also builds motivation, curiosity, and memory. Bardige, B. Talk to Me, Baby!(2009), Paul H Brookes Pub Co.
  • Reading aloud stimulates language development even before a child can talk. Bardige, B. Talk to Me, Baby!(2009), Paul H Brookes Pub Co.
  • Research shows that the more words parents use when speaking to an 8-month-old infant, the greater the size of their child’s vocabulary at age 3. The landmark Hart-Risley study on language development documented that children from low-income families hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers before the age of 4. Hart, B. Risley, T. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children (1995), Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. 

Reading Aloud Helps Children Develop Positive Associations with Books and Reading

  • The nurturing and one-on-one attention from parents during reading aloud encourages children to form a positive association with books and reading later in life.
  • Reading aloud is a proven technique to help children cope during times of stress or tragedy.

Reading Aloud Helps Children Build a Stronger Foundation for School Success

  • “What happens during the first months and years of life matters, a lot, not because this period of development provides an indelible blueprint for adult well-being, but because it sets either a sturdy or fragile stage for what follows.” J.S. Shonkoff & D. Phillips, Eds., From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development (2000), Washington D.C.; National Research Council & The Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press.
  • Once children start school, difficulty with reading contributes to school failure, which can increase the risk of absenteeism, leaving school, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and teenage pregnancy – all of which can perpetuate the cycles of poverty and dependency.
  • Reading aloud in the early years exposes children to story and print knowledge as well as rare words and ideas not often found in day-to-day conversations or screen time.
  • Reading aloud gives children the opportunity to practice listening – a crucial skill for kindergarten and beyond.

In 2008, some of Reach Out and Read’s Medical Champions published an article called Reading aloud to children: the evidence in the Archives of Disease in Childhood that provides an overview of key research on reading aloud to young children, and its influence on children’s language and literacy development.