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Does reading to infants benefit their cognitive development at 9-months-old? An investigation using a large birth cohort survey

Authors:
  • Mary Immaculate College University of Limerick

Abstract

This study uses a nationally representative sample of 9-month-old infants and their families from the Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) study to investigate if reading to infants is associated with higher scores on contemporaneous indicators of cognitive development independently of other languagebased interactions between parent and infant, such as showing them pictures or talking to them. Reading to infants had an independent positive effect on scores for both the problem-solving and communication subscales of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ), while the positive effect of showing pictures was independent only for communication scores. The effects of both of these activities were, however, less substantial than the positive effect observed for the more informal activity of frequently talking to the infant while doing other things; and this was observed for both communication and problem-solving. The analyses were robust to adjustment for several other factors including maternal education, gestational age, non-parental care, breastfeeding, attachment and presence of siblings. The findings highlight the potential of reading and talking to infants, not just for language and literacy development but also for other aspects of cognitive development.
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... By this way, infants/toddlers start to become aware of literacy skills within natural contexts such as talking and singing about pictures, imitating, letting children turn the pages, labelling pictures, showing the cover page, showing the words, and talking about the function of books (Bus, Van Ijzendoorn, and Pellegrini 1995;Sénéchal and LeFevre 2002;Raikes et al. 2006). It is well-documented that children spending more time on literacy-rich activities from infancy shows more favourable outcomes for later development (Murray and Egan 2014;Canfield et al. 2018). In the present research, we investigated infants' early literacy behaviour growth that could result from being better able to take advantage of learning opportunities made available to them. ...
... For example, parents who received the resources and guidance about the importance of using strategies showed much better behaviours with their infants such as repeating or explaining the meaning of diverse vocabulary, repeating pictures, asking questions, making it personal, describing the pictures in the story or making the story come alive. Repeated pictures are particularly helpful in developing vocabulary for allowing the infant to grasp its defining features, and couple their direct experience of the subject with the word used to represent it (Murray and Egan 2014). It is clear that for infants who receive more proper language input, language productivity will differ vastly from infants whose parents show less interest in shared book experiences (Weizman and Snow 2001;Hoff 2003;Karrass and Braungart-Rieker 2005;Gilkerson et al. 2018). ...
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... Reading is one activity that can be used to reduce screen-time (Khan et al., 2017), and a reading plan suitable for a particular culture can be easily designed. Reading to children or encouraging them to read on their own is one of the most fruitful behaviors, and has been shown to have a positive effect on their cognitive abilities (Murray & Egan, 2014). Moreover, promoting reading to preschoolers was shown to enhance their vocabulary (Hargrave & Sénéchal, 2000), and school children who were better at reading during their initial school years, had a higher chance of graduating high-school and even enrolling in college (Lesnick et al., 2010). ...
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