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To Read or Not to Read: A Meta-Analysis of Print Exposure From Infancy to Early Adulthood


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This research synthesis examines whether the association between print exposure and components of reading grows stronger across development. We meta-analyzed 99 studies (N = 7,669) that focused on leisure time reading of (a) preschoolers and kindergartners, (b) children attending Grades 1-12, and (c) college and university students. For all measures in the outcome domains of reading comprehension and technical reading and spelling, moderate to strong correlations with print exposure were found. The outcomes support an upward spiral of causality: Children who are more proficient in comprehension and technical reading and spelling skills read more; because of more print exposure, their comprehension and technical reading and spelling skills improved more with each year of education. For example, in preschool and kindergarten print exposure explained 12% of the variance in oral language skills, in primary school 13%, in middle school 19%, in high school 30%, and in college and university 34%. Moderate associations of print exposure with academic achievement indicate that frequent readers are more successful students. Interestingly, poor readers also appear to benefit from independent leisure time reading. We conclude that shared book reading to preconventional readers may be part of a continuum of out-of-school reading experiences that facilitate children's language, reading, and spelling achievement throughout their development.
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To Read or Not to Read:
A Meta-Analysis of Print Exposure From Infancy to Early Adulthood
Suzanne E. Mol and Adriana G. Bus
Leiden University
This research synthesis examines whether the association between print exposure and components of
reading grows stronger across development. We meta-analyzed 99 studies (N7,669) that focused on
leisure time reading of (a) preschoolers and kindergartners, (b) children attending Grades 1–12, and (c)
college and university students. For all measures in the outcome domains of reading comprehension and
technical reading and spelling, moderate to strong correlations with print exposure were found. The
outcomes support an upward spiral of causality: Children who are more proficient in comprehension and
technical reading and spelling skills read more; because of more print exposure, their comprehension and
technical reading and spelling skills improved more with each year of education. For example, in
preschool and kindergarten print exposure explained 12% of the variance in oral language skills, in
primary school 13%, in middle school 19%, in high school 30%, and in college and university 34%.
Moderate associations of print exposure with academic achievement indicate that frequent readers are
more successful students. Interestingly, poor readers also appear to benefit from independent leisure time
reading. We conclude that shared book reading to preconventional readers may be part of a continuum
of out-of-school reading experiences that facilitate children’s language, reading, and spelling achieve-
ment throughout their development.
Keywords: meta-analysis, home literacy environment, print exposure checklist, comprehension and
technical reading and spelling development, 2- to 21-year age range
Popular media, governments, schools, and parents all encourage
children to read in their leisure time. There is a widely held
assumption that exposure to print makes us smarter and helps
promote success in life. Is, however, this assumption supported by
scientific evidence? Does reading for pleasure make us better and
faster readers, more knowledgeable and even better speakers? How
do the language and reading abilities of frequent readers differ
from those of nonreaders at each stage of development? To the
best of our knowledge, there are no previous attempts that address
these questions by synthesizing the evidence available across
developmental levels.
Individual differences in print exposure are already present
before any formal education, as parents vary in how often they
read storybooks to their young children (Baker, Scher, & Mackler,
1997; Bus, 2001; Dickinson & McCabe, 2001; Heath, 1982; Mis-
try, Biesanz, Chien, Howes, & Benner, 2008; Raviv, Kessenich, &
Morrison, 2004; Scheele, Leseman, & Mayo, 2010). We can
regard parent–child book sharing as part of a continuum of leisure
time reading experiences that facilitate and influence reading skills
throughout development. It seems plausible that variation in ex-
posure to fiction books, magazines, comic books, and newspapers
during leisure time increases with age. During the primary grades,
children are mainly introduced to narrative texts, whereas their
encounters with texts shift toward expository and technical texts
from fourth grade onward, as they must read to acquire knowledge
in different content areas (RAND Reading Study Group, 2002).
Reading assignments for college and university students also in-
clude more nonfiction textbooks than narrative texts. Reading
fiction books and the like, therefore, increasingly becomes a vol-
untary choice that entails additional and independent reading prac-
tice and, therefore, is likely to distinguish frequent and motivated
readers from infrequent readers. Furthermore, because cognitive
processing is enriched as a function of involvement, and because
narratives are more likely than expository texts to stimulate imag-
ination and to be personally relevant and/or emotionally engaging,
the reading of fiction may especially support consolidation and
extension of knowledge about word forms and word meanings
(Hakemulder, 2000; Harding, 1962; Mar, 2004; Oatley, 1999).
Reading narrative texts as a leisure time activity may therefore
have a different impact on reading skills across various ages and
educational levels. This meta-analysis focuses on the role of print
exposure during leisure time in reading development from infancy
to early adulthood.
In essence, reading is the cognitive process of understanding
speech that is written down. Young children form basic concepts
about the connections between spoken and written words, leading
to word recognition and familiarity with the spelling of words
(Castles & Coltheart, 2004; Ziegler & Goswami, 2005). Initially,
children develop alphabet knowledge (i.e., knowledge of letter
names and how letters relate to sounds in spoken words), phono-
logical processing skills (i.e., how words consist of separable
This article was published Online First January 10, 2011.
Suzanne E. Mol and Adriana G. Bus, Department of Education and
Child Studies, Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands.
We thank Marinus van IJzendoorn for his helpful advice regarding the
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Adriana G.
Bus, Department of Education and Child Studies, Leiden University, PO Box
9555, 2300 RB Leiden, the Netherlands. E-mail:
Psychological Bulletin © 2011 American Psychological Association
2011, Vol. 137, No. 2, 267–296 0033-2909/11/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0021890
sounds and the ability to manipulate phonemes), and orthographic
processing skills (i.e., how to identify meaningful or frequently
occurring parts in written words). These lower order basic reading
skills are considered to be the most time-constrained skills: After
a period of rapid growth, a ceiling is reached in the early primary
grades (Paris, 2005; Paris & Luo, 2010). Likewise, technical
reading and spelling skills may follow a similar time-constrained
developmental trajectory, although it takes longer to reach mastery
in word reading accuracy and fluency and in spelling words
correctly. From early on, word reading ability may depend not
only on basic reading skills but also on oral language skills such as
vocabulary (e.g., Dickinson, McCabe, Anastasopolous, Peisner-
Feinberg, & Poe, 2003; Oullette, 2006; Se´ne´chal & Cornell, 1993;
Stanovich, 1986). As the ultimate goal of reading is reading for
understanding, across development reading proficiency is less
determined by technical reading skills and is more dependent on
sophisticated vocabulary, background knowledge, and intelligence
(e.g., Aarnoutse, van Leeuwe, Voeten, & Oud, 2001; Hoover &
Gough, 1990; Hulslander, Olson, Willcutt, & Wadsworth, 2010;
Nation & Snowling, 2004; National Reading Panel, 2000; Storch
& Whitehurst, 2002; Vellutino, Tunmer, Jaccard, & Chen, 2007).
In the current study, we address the claim that technical reading
and spelling skills, as well as reading comprehension, are honed
not only through direct instruction but also through print exposure.
Furthermore, we examine whether leisure time reading exerts an
increasing impact on reading proficiency with growing age. The
association between reading as leisure activity and the acquisition
of reading skills may be an example of spiral causality or recip-
rocal causation (see Stanovich, 1986). When children enjoy read-
ing books as a leisure time activity, they read more often, which in
turn improves both technical reading and spelling skills and read-
ing comprehension, motivating children to continue reading (Cun-
ningham, Stanovich, & West, 1994; Kush, Watkins, & Brookhart,
2005). As a result of increasing individual differences in leisure
time reading, we expect the relationship between print exposure
and reading skills to strengthen across years of education.
Taking into account that technical reading and spelling skills
have a relatively narrow window of learning and that only skills
such as oral language and reading comprehension can be assessed
at all ages (Paris & Luo, 2010), we conducted separate meta-
analyses in three consecutive age groups: (a) preschoolers and
kindergartners, (b) children in Grades 1–12, and (c) undergraduate
and graduate students attending college or university. We related
print exposure to the following outcome domains: oral language
(in particular expressive and receptive vocabulary), reading com-
prehension, and more general achievement measures such as in-
telligence and academic achievement tests (e.g., eligibility test for
university) as indicators of the comprehension component; and
basic reading skills (alphabet knowledge, phonological processing,
orthographic processing), word recognition (word identification,
word attack), and spelling as indicators of the technical reading
and spelling component.
Print Exposure and Comprehension
Book Sharing With Preconventional Readers
Book reading is often seen as one of the most important activ-
ities for developing the knowledge required for eventual success in
reading (Commission on Reading, National Academy of Educa-
tion, 1985; Samuelsson et al., 2005). Establishing a book reading
routine before the age of 2 is thought to provide children with a
variety of rich linguistic input that stimulates their language de-
velopment and lays the basis for continued, frequent print exposure
(Duursma, 2007; K. L. Fletcher & Reese, 2005; Lyytinen, Laakso,
& Poikkeus, 1998; Raikes et al., 2006). The metaphor of a snow-
ball is used to illustrate how book sharing relates to language
comprehension: As language develops due to book sharing, chil-
dren’s interest in books grows, thereby promoting linguistic ex-
changes with their caregivers that further refine word knowledge,
syntax, and other aspects of language (Neuman, 2001; Raikes et
al., 2006). Furthermore, starting to share books early is likely to
optimize the quality of reading in the long term, as frequent
reading interactions may have the capacity to extend parents’
knowledge of and sensitivity toward their children’s linguistic and
cognitive competencies (K. L. Fletcher & Reese, 2005). Such
sensitive, high-quality interactions are likely to make reading more
enjoyable for parent and child and to lead to an increase in reading
frequency, thereby increasing the likelihood for learning new
language and expanding comprehension skills (Bus & van IJzen-
doorn, 1988; P. F. de Jong & Leseman, 2001). In line with the
snowball metaphor, we may expect a reciprocal effect in which
comprehension skills develop as a result of exposure to books and
in which comprehension determines whether children are exposed
to book sharing.
Previous meta-analyses have supported the hypothesis that
home literacy activities from an early age contribute substantially
to young children’s language and reading comprehension (Bus,
van IJzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1995; Mol, Bus, de Jong, & Smeets,
2008; National Center for Family Literacy, 2008). Children who
have had storybooks read to them frequently—and who have
parents who read themselves and own many books—enter school
with larger vocabularies and more advanced comprehension skills
than their peers who grow up in poorer home literacy environ-
ments. A meta-analytic approach proceeds in a statistically rigor-
ous way to analyze numerical results of studies with comparable
outcome domains and variations in study characteristics (e.g.,
children’s first language, mean age, socioeconomic status; see Bus,
van IJzendoorn, & Mol, in press). Effect sizes, quantitative indexes
of relations among variables, are used to compare and communi-
cate the strength of the summarized research findings (Hedges,
2008). To ease interpretation, effect sizes can be converted into a
binominal effect size display, which demonstrates the change in
success ratio that can be attributed to the main variable of interest
such as shared book reading (Rosenthal, 1991). For example,
outcomes of the Bus et al.’s (1995) meta-analysis indicate that
64% of the children who are read to will be the more proficient
readers at school compared with only 36% of children who are not
exposed to books. This meta-analytic evidence is based not only on
correlational studies but also on experimental and longitudinal
research that allows for stronger causal inference. Therefore we
could argue that book sharing makes a significant difference in
children’s lives by promoting knowledge and skills that are needed
in order to learn how to read and by stimulating a positive attitude
toward reading.
In a more recent set of studies than were included in Bus et al.
(1995), the hypothesis was tested that book reading may in par-
ticular affect vocabulary acquisition, a central element of text
comprehension (e.g., Dickinson & McCabe, 2001; Verhallen &
Bus, 2010; Whitehurst & Lonigan, 1998). Children may learn
more new words during reading than during other interactions with
language, such as during mealtime and playtime, because chil-
dren’s books contain 3 times as many low-frequency words as
television shows or adults’ conversations with children (Hayes &
Ahrens, 1988). Furthermore, caregivers may ask questions about
pictures, difficult words, and story events, and give informative
feedback on children’s answers during book sharing, boosting
story comprehension and language development (e.g., Collins,
2010; De Temple & Snow, 2003; Mol, Bus, & de Jong, 2009; Mol
et al., 2008; Whitehurst et al., 1988). Whether book reading results
in receptive word learning (i.e., comprehending its meaning) as
well as expressive word learning (i.e., producing the word) is still
in debate. Some reading researchers show that expressive vocab-
ulary may be promoted especially when children are challenged by
caregivers to actively repeat or label words (Ard & Beverly, 2004;
Coyne, McCoach, Loftus, Zipoli, & Kapp, 2009; Penno, Wilkin-
son, & Moore, 2002; Se´ne´chal, 1997).
The present meta-analysis of print exposure in preconventional
readers is an update as well as a critical replication. Research
syntheses thus far may have systematically underestimated the
effects of book sharing because studies assessed children’s print
exposure through self-report questionnaires. Parents are likely to
overestimate the time they spend reading to their young children
when they highly value book reading (DeBaryshe, 1995), which
may reduce variance in questionnaire responses and attenuate the
correlation between book reading frequency and comprehension
measures. To test the impact of social desirability biases, we
applied a cross-validation approach in order to directly compare
studies using traditional self-report questionnaires with studies
assessing parents’ familiarity with children’s book titles as mea-
sured by a print exposure checklist. The latter measure is more
objective; it may reveal stronger correlations with language and
story comprehension.
Independent Text Reading by Conventional Readers
Frequent exposure to texts broadens knowledge that enables
readers to become more proficient in reading comprehension (e.g.,
Hirsch, 2003). In addition to general knowledge of the world,
advanced levels of oral language skills are required for successful
text comprehension. Independent text reading seems the most
promising activity to develop such language skills; written texts
not only contain a variety of words and complex sentence struc-
tures, but also provide context information that supports the read-
ers’ ability to infer meaning of unknown vocabulary (Nagy, 1988;
Nagy & Herman, 1987). However, readers need background
knowledge as well as a mental lexicon that covers at least 95% of
the words in a text to understand its content and to be able to guess
unfamiliar words from context (Carver, 1994; Hsueh-chao &
Nation, 2000; Laufer, 1989). In line with a meta-analysis that
showed that proficient readers and students in the upper grades
have the greatest chance of incidental vocabulary acquisition
(Swanborn & de Glopper, 1999), readers with smaller vocabularies
are most likely to experience problems with understanding and
learning vocabulary from age-appropriate texts.
When children lack background knowledge and vocabulary and
therefore do not succeed in comprehending text, they become less
eager to read and, as a result, show stagnation in their reading
comprehension skills, vocabulary size, and general knowledge
base (Kush et al., 2005). Such a negative causal spiral could
explain why reading development tapers off toward the end of
fourth grade, when students are no longer learning to read by
practicing relatively easy texts but must instead read to learn from
subject matter textbooks (Chall, 1983). Fourth-grade students are
faced with texts that demand considerable oral language skills and
efficient reading strategies to understand the content and to expand
the knowledge base necessary to succeed in school (Hirsch, 2003;
Juel, 2006; Vellutino et al., 2007). In contrast, an upward causal
spiral may occur in proficient readers, who are more likely to have
pleasurable reading experiences and who choose to read more
often, resulting in continued improvements in language skills,
background knowledge, and reading comprehension.
Differences in levels of print exposure may result in increasing
interindividual achievement differences over time for frequent
readers versus infrequent readers, which is sometimes termed the
“Matthew effect” (Bast & Reitsma, 1998; Foster & Miller, 2007;
Stanovich, 1986). Such an achievement gap is likely to widen in
particular for unconstrained skills such as oral language and read-
ing comprehension, because learning new words and their mean-
ings from context has few upper bounds. In other words, oral
language and reading comprehension skills will continue to de-
velop over the life span (Paris, 2005). Consequently, even among
more proficient readers, individual differences in oral language
skills, reading comprehension, and (possibly) intelligence and ac-
ademic achievement would be posited to increase as a function of
print exposure (Stanovich, West, & Harrison, 1995; West, Stanov-
ich, & Mitchell, 1993). We expect, therefore, that the correlations
between print exposure and these unconstrained skills will get
stronger as the number of years of education increases. Here, too,
we try to avoid the negative bias of self-report data by focusing on
print exposure measures that are least sensitive to social desirabil-
Print Exposure and Technical Reading and Spelling
Book Sharing and Basic Reading Skills
Children’s storybooks may offer an incentive for the develop-
ment of knowledge about print, letters, and sounds in preconven-
tional readers, because storybook illustrations are mostly accom-
panied by the written text that parents can read aloud (Sulzby,
1985; Teale & Sulzby, 1986). Eye-tracking research shows that
illustrations attract more visual attention than print (Evans &
Saint-Aubin, 2005; Justice, Pullen, & Pence, 2008; Justice, Skibbe,
Canning, & Lankford, 2005), but the proportion of time that
children spend looking at the text during shared storybook reading
increases from kindergarten to fourth grade and is greatest when
the difficulty level of the text is within children’s reading profi-
ciency level (Roy-Charland, Saint-Aubin, & Evans, 2007). The
youngest preconventional readers may pay barely any attention to
print features in storybooks because they need all their working
memory capacity to interpret the illustrations and to link the story
content with the illustrations. Older children with more advanced
basic knowledge about stories are more likely to notice and pro-
cess print in storybooks even without their attention being drawn
to print by their caregivers (M. T. de Jong & Bus, 2002; Evans,
Saint-Aubin, & Landry, 2009; Neuman, 2001). We expect, there-
fore, a reciprocal relation between book sharing and basic reading
skills, as storybooks promote the independent acquisition of print
knowledge but only when some print knowledge is available.
Independent Text Reading and Technical Reading
and Spelling
In narrative texts, words are presented in a relevant context,
which may not only stimulate knowledge about the meaning of
words but also improve word reading skills in conventional readers
(e.g., Krashen, 1989; Stanovich, 1986). Frequent encounters with
words in context are assumed to strengthen basic reading skills and
to lead to new connections between written word forms and
syntactic and semantic information (Bowers, Davis, & Hanley,
2005; Ehri & Roberts, 1979; Pecher, Zeelenberg, & Wagenmakers,
2005). Apart from instructing and/or practicing single words, we
suggest that text reading has at least two additional advantages.
Not only is reading words more motivating when words are
embedded in engaging stories (Guthrie & Wigfield, 1999), but the
syntactical and semantic context can also be used to guess at less
familiar words and to store, connect, and enrich associations
between word forms and contextual information (Nation, 2008;
Perfetti & Hart, 2002).
Basic reading skills. When children encounter unknown
words while reading text, they follow the relatively slow gra-
phophonological route. Beginning readers sound out individual
letters and blend them into pronunciations that approximate real
words (Ehri, 1998). They thereby improve lower order reading
skills via alphabet knowledge and phonological and orthographic
processing of words. The self-teaching hypothesis predicts that
applying letter-to-sound rules enables the acquisition of ortho-
graphic representations of novel words through independent print
exposure (Jorm & Share, 1983; Share, 1995, 1999). As such basic
reading skills typically evolve from nonexistent to fully acquired
to automatic command in a restricted time span (Paris, 2005), we
expect that the development of basic skills may benefit from print
exposure especially in the primary grades. Poor readers seem to
gain less word-specific knowledge from the same amount of print
exposure than skilled readers (e.g., Breznitz, 1997; Ehri & Salt-
marsh, 1995; Ehri & Wilce, 1979; Reitsma, 1983; Share & Shalev,
2004), and as a result, they take longer to master these constrained
skills. Because poor readers will still vary in their basic reading
skills, whereas their peers with age-appropriate reading abilities
are much more similar, the correlations between print exposure
and basic reading skills are expected to be strongest for groups of
poorer readers.
Word recognition. More advanced readers may increasingly
process sound patterns of frequently occurring letter clusters and
recognize the meaning of the blend (Ehri, 1998). In opaque lan-
guages such as English and French, applying letter-to-sound rules
according to the graphophonological route is often not sufficient,
because connections between letters or letter clusters and sounds
are inconsistent (Goswami, Ziegler, Dalton, & Schneider, 2001;
Patel, Snowling, & de Jong, 2004). Instead, advanced readers in
such languages use the lexicosemantic route, in which character-
istics of the visual word form are directly associated with the
word’s meaning (e.g., Paulesu et al., 2000; Seymour, Aro, &
Erskine, 2003). Low levels of print exposure are thought to delay
the development of both the graphophonological and lexicoseman-
tic routes that are required for adequate and fluent word recogni-
tion (Stanovich, Siegel, & Gottardo, 1997).
Reading words in context may be relevant especially for the
development of orthographic representations of recurrent letter
clusters (e.g., –ight), morphological patterns (e.g., –ed), or even
higher order structures (e.g., whole words) that enable processing
words through the lexicosemantic route (e.g., Ehri, 1998). Each
exposure to a word embedded in a text sets down an “episodic
trace” that relates word form information to the context in which
the word occurred (e.g., pictures, events, sentences, other words).
The episodic traces will be renewed each time the reader is
confronted with the word form, further enhancing the quality of the
lexical representation and contributing to the comprehension of the
text that contains the word (see Nation, 2008; Shaywitz & Shay-
witz, 2008). Because of an imbalance in print exposure levels
among children, individual differences in the availability of epi-
sodic traces are likely to increase over time: Children who do not
read much in their leisure time have lower quality representations
of word forms, and hence their development of word recognition
is less advanced compared with frequent readers who repeatedly
encounter word forms in a variety of contexts.
Spelling. The self-teaching hypothesis suggests that as a result
of repeated encounters with words in written text, orthographic
representations of word parts or complete words also contribute to
writing skills (Cunningham, Perry, Stanovich, & Share, 2002;
Share & Shalev, 2004). Children initially overrely on phonetics
when spelling dictated words, but as their development progresses
they gradually move to strategies that incorporate sound, ortho-
graphic patterns, and semantics (Berninger et al., 2002; Bourassa
& Treiman, 2001; Sadoski, Willson, Holcomb, & Boulware-
Gooden, 2004–2005). The complexity of English spelling and the
lack of systematic teaching of morpheme-spelling rules in schools
have led to the hypothesis that competent spellers infer spelling
knowledge by reading and not from training of spelling rules
(Krashen, 1989; Nunes & Bryant, 2009). As even adults who are
proficient in writing make spelling errors, we expect that spelling
is less time-constrained than basic reading skills and word recog-
nition, so its association with print exposure is likely to continue to
become stronger with increasing years of education. For poor
readers, however, it takes longer to acquire letter-to-sound rules,
which may interfere with learning word spellings, even when their
amount of print exposure is comparable to that of more proficient
readers (Ehri & Saltmarsh, 1995; Share & Shalev, 2004).
Reciprocal Causation?
Because of the correlational nature of the bulk of studies into
print exposure, four possible interpretations of the association
between reading abilities and print exposure may arise (e.g.,
Moore & McCabe, 2006). First, print exposure might be a causal
factor in enhancing reading ability. For instance, book sharing is
thought to support school readiness (e.g., Duursma, 2007; Wood,
2002) and the acquisition of conventional reading skills in the
primary grades (e.g., Connor, Son, Hindman, & Morrison, 2005;
Melhuish et al., 2008; Molfese, Modglin, & Molfese, 2003). Sec-
ond, print exposure may be largely a consequence of children’s
reading ability. Low-achieving readers may not perceive reading
as a rewarding experience, which might result in less print expo-
sure, whereas better readers are likely to have positive experiences
with reading, which may be an incentive for reading as a leisure
activity (e.g., Koolstra, van der Voort, & van der Kamp, 1997;
Leppa¨nen, Aunola, & Nurmi, 2005). Third, the association may be
spurious due to lurking or hidden third variables, which are pos-
itively related to both reading skills and reading volume. A fourth
possibility seems most plausible: Print exposure is both a conse-
quence of reading ability and a contributor to further reading
development, and the association may in fact be based on recip-
rocal causation (e.g., Bast & Reitsma, 1998; Harlaar, Dale, &
Plomin, 2007). Overall, if print exposure makes a difference in
children’s (academic) lives, it may be expected that oral language
skills, reading comprehension, basic reading skills, word recogni-
tion, spelling, and intelligence relate to the amount and frequency
of reading for pleasure. Because more skilled readers are more
likely to enjoy reading as a leisure time activity, they will choose
to read more frequently, which, in turn, will improve knowledge of
word forms and semantics and enhance vocabulary size and text
comprehension abilities.
As long as children are unable to read conventionally, they need
caregivers to help them bridge the gap between the world of the
book and their own world (Bus, 2003). When children enter school
and are no longer solely dependent on their caregivers for their
print exposure, their home environment is still thought to explain
achievement differences in the classroom (Alexander, Entwisle, &
Olson, 2007; Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay, & Greathouse,
1996). However, the degree to which children evoke and select
their own leisure time reading environment changes with devel-
opment: As children mature, they may become more active cre-
ators of their own environments by seeking out stimulating expe-
riences that are compatible with their abilities and interests. For
children in preschool and kindergarten, their parents’ behaviors
will be the most critical element in determining their print expo-
sure (e.g., Forget-Dubois et al., 2009), whereas for older children,
their comprehension and technical reading and spelling skills will
become more and more influential in whether they choose to read
as a leisure activity, and the influence of their environment is
likely to decrease (e.g., Harlaar et al., 2007; Petrill, Deater-
Deckard, Schatschneider, & Davis, 2005). As children are not
all equally attracted to reading fiction books, magazines, and
the like, it seems probable that individual differences in leisure
time print exposure increase as children advance through the
educational system.
Measurement of Print Exposure
The main inclusion criterion for the present meta-analysis was
the administration of a print exposure checklist: an unobtrusive
measure that is thought to be an objective proxy of reading volume
(Stanovich, 2000; Stanovich & West, 1989). Print exposure check-
lists follow a quick-probe logic in which titles of popular novels or
names of best-selling authors function as probes into a person’s
literacy environment. The checklist can be adjusted to measure
out-of-school reading in any age group by excluding titles or
authors prominent in the school curriculum (e.g., Barker,
Torgesen, & Wagner, 1992; Bråten, Lie, Andreassen, & Olaussen,
1999; Cunningham & Stanovich, 1997). Foils—fake items of
nonexisting titles or author names—are added to correct for guess-
ing. It is assumed that a parent, child, or student who reads
frequently will know more about literature and, therefore, will
recognize more correct items than a respondent who reads less
often (Allen, Cunningham, & Stanovich, 1992; Se´ne´chal, LeFevre,
Hudson, & Lawson, 1996; West et al., 1993). Furthermore, the
checklist is thought to reflect the attitude toward and familiarity
with the domain of literature (Allen et al., 1992; Cunningham et
al., 1994).
In previous qualitative (e.g., Evans & Shaw, 2008; Scarborough
& Dobrich, 1994; Teale, 1981) and quantitative research syntheses
(Bus et al., 1995), self-report questionnaires were included as the
chief indicators of young children’s exposure to print. Such ques-
tionnaires, however, are likely to suffer from a social desirability
bias (DeBaryshe, 1995). In addition, many items are open to
ambiguous interpretations and require retrospective time judg-
ments (e.g., “How frequently have you read to your child in the
past week?”). A parent might count the sharing of five books in
one sitting before bedtime as five sessions, whereas another parent
will report this as only one reading episode (Se´ne´chal et al., 1996).
The literature even provides examples of parents who counted
reading a word on a wrapper as a reading session (e.g., van
Lierop-Debrauer, 1990). Print exposure checklists are thought to
avoid these measurement issues and provide more objective in-
sights in children’s home literacy environment (Se´ne´chal et al.,
We expect that the impact of measurement method will be
greatest among parents of preconventional readers who may feel
most inclined to overestimate their book reading frequency. With
the media, pediatricians, and schools emphasizing that an early
start with sharing storybooks ensures children’s academic success,
a questionnaire on book reading practices may feel like a “parental
quality” test. Reporting that you do not manage to read daily is like
admitting that you do not want to optimally prepare your child for
school. In the set of studies on preconventional reading children,
we therefore applied a cross-validation approach to test the impact
of the expected bias. We compared two independent sets of studies
that differed in the method they used to measure children’s home
literacy environment but that were comparable in their main study
characteristics. That is, we matched each study in which parents
completed a print exposure checklist with a study that used a
self-report questionnaire to assess young children’s home literacy
environment on characteristics such as sample size, children’s
mean age, home language, and socioeconomic status. We expect
that the self-report studies will replicate the main finding in earlier
syntheses that about 8% of the variance in young children’s
language and reading comprehension is related to shared book
reading (Bus et al., 1995; Scarborough & Dobrich, 1994). As print
exposure checklists are likely to be less biased, we expect that such
checklists will reveal stronger correlations with outcome measures
than self-report questionnaires.
The Current Study
The meta-analysis presented here consisted of three steps. First,
studies in which parents of preschoolers and/or kindergartners
completed a print exposure checklist were matched to studies that
administered a self-report questionnaire. Second, we meta-
analyzed studies linking print exposure to comprehension and
technical reading and spelling skills of children attending Grades
1–12. Third, as individual differences are predicted to increase
until adulthood, we tested effect sizes for the relation between print
exposure and all outcome domains within a set of studies on
undergraduate and graduate students. In both groups of conven-
tional readers (i.e., beyond preschool and kindergarten), we con-
trasted effects of print exposure in poorer readers against those
found in their higher achieving peers. Specifically, we focused on
the following hypotheses:
Hypothesis 1: At all educational levels, indicators of the
comprehension component (oral language, reading compre-
hension, or general achievement measures) as well as indica-
tors of technical reading and spelling skills (basic reading
skills, word recognition, or spelling) will be associated with
print exposure.
Hypothesis 2: For unconstrained skills such as oral language
and reading comprehension, correlations with print exposure
are expected to become stronger with increasing grade levels,
because readers who have pleasurable reading experiences
choose to read more often.
Hypothesis 3: Constrained technical reading and spelling
skills may remain correlated with print exposure for a longer
period in lower ability readers than in children with age-
appropriate reading abilities.
Hypothesis 4: For preconventional readers, effect sizes found
in studies based on self-report questionnaires will be smaller
than effect size estimates based on print exposure checklists.
Search Strategy and Inclusion Criteria
We entered into databases, such as PsycINFO, ERIC, and Pro-
Quest Dissertations and Theses, several combinations of the fol-
lowing keywords: print exposure,(title/author/magazine) recog-
nition or checklist,home literacy environment,shared/joint/
parent– child book reading,reading frequency,free voluntary
reading,leisure time reading,reading development,reading abil-
ity,oral language,preschool,kindergarten,primary/elementary/
middle/high school, and/or (college or university) students.In
addition, we read the method sections of articles that cited Cun-
ningham and Stanovich (1990, 1991), Se´ne´chal et al. (1996), or
Stanovich and West (1989) to check whether these citing studies
used a (adapted) version of their print exposure checklists. We
further extended our search by examining the reference lists of our
included studies. As an additional check, we selected some repre-
sentative journals (i.e., Journal of Educational Psychology,Jour-
nal of Research in Reading,Reading Research Quarterly,Reading
and Writing,Scientific Studies of Reading,Journal of Literacy
Research, and Journal of Early Childhood Literacy Research) and
hand-searched journal issues from January 2004 to December
2008. We encountered no studies that we had not detected in our
initial searches.
The selected articles had to meet the following inclusion crite-
ria: (a) a print exposure checklist had been administered, in which
book titles, names of authors, and/or magazine titles were listed;
(b) respondents were parents of either 2- to 6-year-old preconven-
tional readers, school-aged children attending Grades 1–12, or
undergraduate or graduate students (studies assessing adults such
as university staff were included only when the majority of the
sample consisted of college or university students); (c) child out-
come measures comprised oral language and/or reading ability
tests and were administered in the same (school) year as the
checklist (studies that included only general measures, such as a
selection test for high school, were excluded, as were studies that
did not include an oral language measure in the group of precon-
ventional readers); and (d) the correlations or means and standard
deviations provided reflected the association between a print ex-
posure checklist and comprehension or technical reading and spell-
ing outcomes and could be transformed into a Fisher’s zeffect size.
There were no restrictions on study design or on participants’
language or country, as long as the article did not report a case
study and was written in English, French, Dutch, or German. All
(published or unpublished) articles, dissertations, and conference
contributions were retrieved before January 2009.
We excluded print exposure studies that reported no child out-
comes or outcomes other than comprehension and technical read-
ing and spelling skills, such as science tests or social ability tasks
(e.g., Bråten et al., 1999; Burgess, 2005; Castles, Datta, Gayan, &
Olson, 1999; Chomsky, 1972; Curry, Parrila, Stephenson, Kirby,
& Catterson, 2004; Korat & Schiff, 2005; Lee & Krashen, 1996;
Long & Prat, 2002; Mar, Oatley, Hirsh, dela Paz, & Peterson,
2006; Pavonetti, Brimmer, & Cipielewski, 2002–2003; Radloff,
2008; Stainthorp & Hughes, 2000), studies in which the checklist
and the outcome measures were not administered within the same
school year (e.g., Harlaar et al., 2007; Hood, Conlon, & Andrews,
2008; Shatil & Share, 2003; Stainthorp, 1997), and studies in
which the participants were too old to meet our inclusion criteria
(e.g., Lee, Krashen, & Tse, 1997; Stone, Fisher, & Eliot, 1999;
West et al., 1993). Studies were also excluded when the respon-
dents were teachers (e.g., McCutchen et al., 2002), kindergarten
children (e.g., Bulat, 2005), or the parents of school-aged children
(e.g., McGrath et al., 2007). Because mothers read most to the
child, we used maternal data over paternal if both were reported
(e.g., Symons, Szuszkiewicz, & Bonnell, 1996). Attempts to locate
the dissertation by Daly (2000), studying print exposure in 8- to
11-year-old children from Northern Ireland, were unsuccessful.
When multiple, independent samples were included within one
article, we treated them as separate studies (Byrne, Fielding-
Barnsley, Ashley, & Larsen, 1997; Ecalle & Magnan, 2008; Grant,
Gottardo, & Geva, 2008; Grant, Wilson, & Gottardo, 2007;
McBride-Chang, Manis, Seidenberg, Custodio, & Doi, 1993;
Sears, Siakaluk, Chow, & Buchman, 2008; Stanovich & West,
1989), or we selected the subsamples that met the inclusion criteria
(Ecalle & Magnan, 2008; Se´ne´chal & LeFevre, 2002; Stanovich et
al., 1995; Wolforth, 2000). The data from Burns and Blewitt
(2000); Davidse, de Jong, Bus, Huijbregts, and Swaab (2010);
Grant et al. (2008); Masterson and Hayes (2007); and van der
Kooy-Hofland, Kegel, and Bus (in press) were obtained by
e-mailing the authors.
To cross-validate the print exposure checklist in the group of
preconventional readers, we matched the studies in which parents
filled in a print exposure checklist with studies that administered
only a self-report questionnaire about parents’ literacy resources
and/or activities. Because correlations are influenced by sample
size (Lipsey & Wilson, 2001; Moore & McCabe, 2006), we
searched databases and abstracts for studies with comparable sam-
ples. For each print exposure study included, we then tried to find
a match on four main characteristics: sample size, children’s mean
age, home language, and socioeconomic status. Except for one
study with 24 English-speaking preschool children from India
(Kalia, 2007), we were able to match each of the 15 studies with
a comparable counterpart (see Tables 1 and 2). This cross-
validation approach gave us the unique opportunity to study dif-
ferential effects of two measurement methods independently.
Coding Process
Two independent coders completed a standard coding scheme
per study, comprising (a) year of publication, (b) publication status
(published in peer-reviewed journal, unpublished, dissertation), (c)
continent (Asia, Australia, Europe, North America) and specific
country, (d) design (cross-sectional and/or longitudinal, [quasi-]
experiment), (e) sample size and number of male and female
participants, (f) mean age and age range, (g) socioeconomic status
(low, middle), (h) school type (preschool, kindergarten, elemen-
tary/middle/high school [specify grade number], undergraduate,
graduate, combination), (i) ability level (lower ability, age-
appropriate, higher ability), (j) language learners (first, second),
(k) print exposure checklist characteristics (language, number of
[real and fake] items, composition procedure, scoring, Cronbach’s
alpha), (l) home literacy questionnaire (administered: yes, no;
content of questions), (m) type and names of outcome measures
(standardized, unstandardized), and (n) correlation (bivariate, par-
tial). Two coders coded 75% of all studies included. The intercoder
agreement for both study characteristics and outcome variables
ranged between 77% and 100% across meta-analyses, resulting in
an overall average mean of 94.5% (␬⫽.96, range: .65–1.00). All
discrepancies between coders were settled in discussion, and con-
sensus scores were used.
Because it can be assumed that standardized measures are more
reliable and valid than unstandardized measures, we first treated
standardized and unstandardized measures separately to check for
differences in correlations with print exposure. Unconstrained
skills such as oral language were assessed by standardized mea-
sures such as the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test or vocabulary
subtests from the Metropolitan Achievement Test and the Nelson–
Denny Reading Test. Vocabulary checklists (i.e., ticking off actual
words in a list that also includes nonexistent words) were treated
as unstandardized. Reading comprehension was predominantly
measured by standardized tests that had children read short pas-
sages and answer multiple-choice or open-ended questions or fill
in missing words in a cloze task: the Stanford Diagnostic Reading
Test, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, Neale Analysis of Reading
Ability, Nelson–Denny Reading Test, Woodcock–Johnson Pas-
sage Comprehension, Peabody Individual Achievement Test, or
Stanford Early School Achievement Test. Constrained skills such
as alphabet knowledge (e.g., naming letters), phonological pro-
cessing (e.g., choosing one out of two pseudowords that can be
pronounced as a real word), and orthographic processing (e.g.,
pick the correct spelling from two choices that sound alike) were
mostly measured by unstandardized tests and were treated as
components of basic reading skills. Word recognition tests were
separately coded as word identification (e.g., the ability to identify
words in isolation correctly) and word attack (e.g., reading aloud
pseudowords and/or exception words), which were measured by
standardized tests such as the Woodcock–Johnson, Woodcock
Reading Mastery Test, or Test of Word Reading Efficiency. Spell-
ing was assessed by standardized tests such as the Wide Range
Achievement Test, or by unstandardized experimental tasks such
as writing dictated words. Error rates were preferred; reading
speed measures or decision latencies were excluded. We also
coded measures of IQ (i.e., Raven, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for
Children, Stanford–Binet) and indicators for academic achieve-
ment such as grade point average and American College Testing
and Scholastic Assessment Test scores.
Meta-Analytic Procedures
All correlations between a print exposure checklist and any
outcome variable were inserted into the computer program Com-
prehensive Meta-Analysis (Borenstein, Hedges, Higgins, & Roth-
stein, 2005) and transformed into Fisher’s zeffect sizes for further
analyses, because the variance of zis approximately constant,
whereas the variance of the correlation follows an asymmetrical
distribution (Borenstein, Hedges, Higgins, & Rothstein, 2009). To
ease interpretation of the Results section, Fisher’s zsummary
estimates were transformed back into a correlation with the for-
mula rtanh(z) (Lipsey & Wilson, 2001). In general, a Fisher’s
zvalue of .10 (r.10) can be interpreted as a small effect size, .31
(r.30) as moderate, and .55 (r.50) as large (Cohen, 1988).
For studies that did not report bivariate Pearson rs, we converted
the provided statistics into Fisher’s zvalues. A pvalue of .10 was
entered and converted into a weighted correlation for studies that
only reported that an association was not significant. Kalia (2007),
however, reported the range of nonsignificant correlations, so we
entered p.50 for all nonsignificant values to estimate a conser-
vative correlation in the lower end of that range. Studies in which
partial correlations (k11), converted Fand ttests (k4), or
means and standard deviations (k8) were provided were scat-
tered through all outcome measures and did not influence the
results when we analyzed the data without them.
To compare the effect sizes of print exposure for different
outcome domains (oral language, reading comprehension, general
achievement, basic reading skills, word recognition, spelling), we
treated each outcome domain as an independent correlate (see Bus
et al., in press). When a study used multiple tests to measure one
outcome domain, we averaged the effect sizes within that study to
ensure that each study contributed only one effect size to the
analysis of that domain so that each had an equal impact on the
summary estimate of each domain. For oral language, reading
comprehension, and spelling skills, our stepwise approach in-
cluded (a) aggregating effects of standardized and unstandardized
tests into two separate composites and (b) if both were available,
combining the standardized and unstandardized composites to
create an overall composite per study. As basic reading skills were
mostly measured by unstandardized tests and word recognition and
general achievement by standardized tests, we did not distinguish
standardized from unstandardized composites in these analyses.
For each study that assessed more than one indicator of lower
order technical reading skills, we (a) created separate composites
of alphabet knowledge, phonological processing, and orthographic
processing per study and (b) integrated these indicators into a basic
reading skills composite. Likewise, combined effects for word
Table 1
Moderators and Outcomes per Parent–Child Print Exposure Study in Meta-Analysis 1: Preschool and Kindergarten Children
status Continent (country)
language N
Age (months)
Fisher’s z(SE)
MRange CAR CTR AAR No. books RFreq
Aram (2005) Published Asia (Israel) Other 41 46 K 65.59 Low Oral (EV) .18 (.16) .39 (.16)
Basics (PP OP) .51 (.09) .37 (.08) .46 (.08)
Burns & Blewitt (2000) Unpublished North America
(United States)
English 59 P 36 Middle Oral (RV) .22 (.13)
Davidse et al. (2010) Unpublished Europe
Other 118 52 P 54.52 51–57 Middle Oral .21 (.07) .14 (.08)
Basics (OP) .15 (.10) .18 (.11)
Evans et al. (2000) Published North America
English 66 K 71 65–80 Middle Oral (RV) .21 (.13)
Basics (AK PP) .22 (.07)
Farver et al. (2006) Published North America
(United States)
Other 122 47 P 45 39–49 Low Oral (RV) .24 (.09) .26 (.09)
Foy & Mann (2003) Published North America
(United States)
English 40 43 P K 58.32 48–74.4 Middle Oral (EV) .06 (.16)
Basics (AK PP) .09 (.10)
Frijters et al. (2000) Published North America
English 92 54 K 68.50 63–76 Middle Oral (RV) .41 (.11) .46 (.11) .24 (.11)
Basics (AK PP) .30 (.08) .19 (.08) .36 (.08)
Gest et al. (2004) Published North America
(United States)
English 76 59 P K 62.01 Low Oral .56 (.12) .44 (.12)
Basics (PP) .26 (.12) .29 (.12)
Kalia (2007) Published Asia (India) English 24 P 44.29 40–49 Middle Oral .52 (.15) .15 (.15)
Basics (AK PP) .46 (.13) .15 (.15)
Se´ne´chal (2000) Published North America
Other 80 46 K 60 48–71 Middle Oral (RV) .20 (.08) .09 (.12) .17 (.11) .03 (.11)
Se´ne´chal et al. (1996;
Study 1)
Published North America
English 117 54 P K 52 40–69 Middle Oral (RV) .45 (.07) .44 (.09) .35 (.09) .24 (.09)
Se´ne´chal et al. (1996;
Study 2)
Published North America
English 47 66 P K 49 33–70 Middle Oral (RV EV) .45 (.08) .32 (.11) .30 (.11) .19 (.11)
Se´ne´chal et al. (1998) Published North America
English 110 58 K 60 47–79 Middle Oral .37 (.07) .25 (.07)
Basics (AK
.30 (.04) .27 (.04)
Se´ne´chal et al. (2008) Published North America
English 106 46 P 56 Middle Oral .31 (.07) .29 (.07)
Basics (PP) .35 (.10) .27 (.10)
Symons et al. (1996) Published North America
English 39 51 K 72 Middle Oral (RV) .38 (.17)
Basics (PP OP) .27 (.12)
Note. Only aggregated effect sizes per outcome domain are provided here. See Table 6 for weighted combined effect sizes on separate outcome variables.
The sample size for the meta-analysis can be smaller based on the data available to calculate Fisher’s z.
School type: preschool (P), kindergarten (K).
SES socioeconomic status: dichotomous
split in low SES versus middle middle and/or high SES.
Outcome: Oral oral language composite; Oral (EV) oral language composite comprises expressive vocabulary; Oral (RV) oral
language composite comprises receptive vocabulary; Oral (RV EV) oral language composite comprises both receptive and expressive vocabulary measures; Basics basic reading skills composite,
comprising alphabet knowledge (AK), phonological processing (PP), and/or orthographic processing (OP).
Transformed association (Fisher’s z) between Outcome and Child-Author Recognition and
Child-Title Recognition Test (CAR CTR), Adult-Author Recognition Test (AAR), number of books at home (No. books; single item) and reading frequency (RFreq; single item).
Table 2
Moderators and Outcomes for the Matched Set of Self-Report Studies in Meta-Analysis 1, in Which Each Row Corresponds to the Row of the Print Exposure Study in Table
1 That the Self-Report Study Is Matched to
status Continent (country)
language N
Age (months)
Fisher’s z(SE)
MRange HLE-comp RFreq
Korat et al. (2007) Published Asia (Israel) Other 47 45 K 71.08 Low Basics .24 (.16)
Deckner et al. (2006) Published North America
(United States)
English 55 47 P 42 42–44 Middle Oral (RV EV) .47 (.11)
Basics (AK) .05 (.11)
van der Kooy-Hofland
et al. (in press)
Unpublished Europe
Other 101 59 K 64.46 60–72 Middle Oral .17 (.07)
Basics (PP) .17 (.10)
Stephenson et al. (2008) Published North America
English 61 49 K 69.84 Middle Oral (RV) .09 (.13) .18 (.13)
Basics (AK PP) .18 (.08) .28 (.09)
Reese et al. (1999) Book
North America
(United States)
Other 121 K Low Oral (EV) .26 (.13)
Basics .14 (.07) .08 (.10)
Skibbe et al. (2008) Published North America
(United States)
English 52 52 P 54.02 48–61 Middle Basics (AK) .26 (.10)
Roth et al. (2002) Published North America
(United States)
English 66 58 K 66 62–75 Middle Oral .41 (.05)
Basics (AK PP) .22 (.06)
Roberts et al. (2005) Published North America
(United States)
English 72 46 P 63 Low Oral (RV EV) .41 (.08) .20 (.08)
Basics (AK) .46 (.13) .15 (.13)
No match
Se´ne´chal (2006) Published North America
Other 90 38 K 72 Middle Oral (RV) .20 (.11)
Basics (AK PP) .05 (.08)
Kelman (2007) Unpublished
North America
(United States)
English 91 43 P K 61.36 36–71 Middle Oral (RV) .21 (.11) .18 (.11)
Basics (AK PP) .20 (.06) .18 (.06)
Chaney (1994) Published North America
(United States)
English 43 51 P 44 33–50 Middle Oral .37 (.08)
Basics (AK PP) .31 (.15)
Burgess (2002) Published North America
(United States)
English 96 52 P K 60.10 48–70 Middle Oral (RV EV) .30 (.07) .14 (.07)
Basics (AK PP) .26 (.03)
Basic (PP) .17 (.10)
Constantine (2005) Unpublished
North America
(United States)
English 101 56 P K 57.83 48–69 Middle Oral .29 (.10) .17 (.10)
Basics .21 (.10) .17 (.10)
Sonnenschein et al.
Unpublished North America
(United States)
English 34 K 70.08 Middle Oral (EV) .52 (.19)
Basics (AK PP) .40 (.13)
Note. Only aggregated effect sizes per outcome domain are provided here. See Table 6 for weighted combined effect sizes on separate outcome variables.
The sample size for the meta-analysis can be smaller based on the data available to calculate Fisher’s z.
School type: preschool (P), kindergarten (K).
SES socioeconomic status: dichotomous
split in low SES versus middle middle and/or high SES.
Outcome: Oral oral language composite; Oral (EV) oral language composite comprises expressive vocabulary; Oral (RV) oral
language composite comprises receptive vocabulary; Oral (RV EV) oral language composite comprises both receptive and expressive vocabulary measures; Basics basic reading skills composite,
comprising alphabet knowledge (AK), phonological processing (PP), and/or orthographic processing (OP).
Transformed association (Fisher’s z) between Outcome and composite of Home Literacy
Environment Questionnaire (HLE-comp) and reading frequency (RFreq; single item).
identification and word attack were first calculated and then ag-
gregated into a word recognition composite that reflects higher
order or conventional technical reading skills. As far as the articles
had not presented a composite for the print exposure checklists, we
merged the title and author recognition test per outcome domain
within the sample of preschool and kindergarten children, and the
title, author, and magazine recognition tests for the children in
Grades 1–12.
Samples were coded as “lower ability” when it was explicitly
stated that students were reading disabled, had special-educational
needs, or were in the lower third of a distribution that was based
on a large set of students. Studies comprising second-language
learners who were not tested in their first language were also
treated as lower ability. When groups of students were matched on
a reading ability measure, the skill on which the groups were
selected to differ was treated as the outcome variable. For exam-
ple, Ricketts, Nation, and Bishop (2007) matched 15 poor and 15
skilled reading comprehenders on age, nonverbal ability, and de-
coding level and administered an author recognition test. We
transformed the checklist means and standard deviations of both
groups into a Fisher’s zand treated reading comprehension as the
outcome variable, because the groups had been selected to differ
significantly on reading comprehension. Because we analyzed
both word recognition and reading comprehension as separate
outcome variables, we had to exclude one subgroup in Leach,
Scarborough, and Rescorla (2003) that showed combined deficits
in word-level and reading comprehension skills. For all moderators
and aggregated outcomes per study, see Tables 3 and 4.
To estimate the mean effect size, we applied the conservative
random-effects model in which studies are weighted by the inverse
of their variance, and, in addition, within-study error and between-
study variation in true effects are accounted for (Borenstein et al.,
2009). A combined effect, the precision of which is addressed by
the 95% confidence interval (CI), is considered significant if the CI
does not include zero. Differences between estimates are inter-
preted as significant when the CIs do not overlap. To avoid lack of
power in the detection of meaningful differences across subgroups
(Hedges & Pigott, 2004), we interpreted a significant Q
value for moderator analyses only if the smallest subgroup con-
tained a minimum of four studies (see Bakermans-Kranenburg,
van IJzendoorn, & Juffer, 2003; Bar-Haim, Lamy, Pergamin,
Bakermans-Kranenburg, & van IJzendoorn, 2007).
Because studies with significant findings are more likely to be
published and, therefore, are more likely to be included in a
meta-analysis than unpublished studies, we examined whether the
results were moderated by publication status. To the extent that the
subgroups could be contrasted, published studies did not reveal
significantly different correlations than unpublished studies: pre-
conventional readers (matched set), Q(1)
p.05; college and university students, Q(1)
1.42, p
.05, Q(1)
1.71, p.05, Q(1)
ART*Word rec
1.23, p
.05. As another indicator, we calculated Rosenthal’s fail-safe num-
ber, which reflects the number of missing studies with null effects
that would have to be retrieved and included in the analyses before
the pvalue becomes nonsignificant (Borenstein et al., 2009).
Because effects can be negligible but still significant, we also
inspected funnel plots to address the potential impact of a publi-
cation bias. We reported adjusted effect sizes based on the trim-
and-fill approach if there appeared to be asymmetry around the
point estimate (Duval & Tweedie, 2000a, 2000b). In the current
meta-analyses, 23 out of 79 summary point estimates had to be
adjusted slightly, with a maximum of three imputed studies to the
left of the mean (M
adjustment z
⫽⫺.03, range: .01 to .09).
Overall, standardized zvalues fell within the range of 3.26 to
3.26 for all effect sizes ( p.001), implying that no outliers were
The results of the meta-analyses are presented in six sections.
First, we report study and sample characteristics. Second, we
explore interrelations between measurement methods of print ex-
posure in all age groups. In other words, we examine whether print
exposure checklists correlated with scores on self-report question-
naires that contained items such as reading frequency, the number
of books at home, and activity preferences (e.g., “I would rather
read than listen to music of my choice”). In three subsequent
subsections, we present correlations between print exposure and
comprehension and technical reading and spelling outcomes for (a)
preschool and kindergarten children, (b) children attending Grades
1–12, and (c) undergraduate and graduate students. Across these
three subsections, the effect sizes of oral language and reading
comprehension are reported first, followed by the effect sizes of
technical reading and spelling skills such as basic reading skills,
word recognition, and spelling. In addition, results of metaregres-
sions and moderator analyses are presented. In the sixth and final
section, longitudinal studies are reviewed to examine the plausi-
bility of reciprocal causation.
For reasons of clarity, we report which mean effect sizes dif-
fered significantly from other mean effect sizes (i.e., the 95% CIs
do not overlap) without mentioning the specific CIs in the text.
These details as well as weighted combined effect sizes for the
separate outcome variables of each domain can be found in Tables
Descriptive Statistics
Ninety-nine studies (N7,669) met our inclusion criteria, of
which 81 were published in peer-reviewed journals. Specifically,
29 studies comprised preschool and kindergarten children (n
2,168), 40 studies targeted children attending Grades 1–12 (n
2,792), and 30 studies included undergraduate and graduate stu-
dents (n2,709). Most respondents resided in North America
24, n1,837; k
27, n1,889; k
24, n
2,219), were first-language learners (k
26, n1,777;
33, n2,368; k
30, n2,709), and were tested
in English (k
21, n1,448; k
36, n2,515;
29, n2,690). Information on socioeconomic status or
parental education levels was available only for the youngest
group of preconventional readers: Thirteen out of 15 homes in
which the print exposure checklists were administered, and 11 out
of the 14 matched studies, could be classified as middle to high
socioeconomic status.
Correlations of Print Exposure Checklists and Home
Literacy Questionnaires
Parents of preschoolers and kindergartners completed a child-title
recognition test to assess familiarity with titles of children’s story-
Table 3
Moderators and Outcomes per Study for Meta-Analysis 2: Grades 1–12
checklist N
(M, years) Grade
Fisher’s z(SE)
Oral Comp Basics Word rec Spelling IQ
Allen et al. (1992) Published North America
(United States)
English 63 60 10.58 5 2 A TRT .44 (.08) .57 (.10)
Barker et al. (1992) Published North America
(United States)
English 87 49 9.42 3 2 TRT .18 (.09) .17 (.08) .09 (.11)
Byrne & Fielding-
Barnsley (1995)
Published Australia English 115 52 8.02 2 2 TRT .20 (.09) .19 (.07)
Byrne et al. (1997,
Study 1)
Book chapter Australia English 33 3 1 TRT .39 (.18)
Byrne et al. (1997,
Study 2)
Book chapter Australia English 28 4 1 TRT .55 (.20)
Cain et al. (2000) Published Europe (United
English 25 2 1 vs. 2 ART .17 (.20)
Cipielewski &
Stanovich (1992)
Published North America
(United States)
English 98 53 10.04 4–5 2 A TRT .50 (.11) .25 (.08)
Compton (2002,
Study 1)
Published North America
(United States)
English 32 11.3 vs. 11.6 5–6 1 vs. 2 TRT .66 (.16)
Compton (2002,
Study 2)
Published North America
(United States)
English 32 8.6 vs. 8.8 3 1 vs. 3 TRT .26 (.17)
Cunningham &
Stanovich (1990)
Published North America
(United States)
English 80 47 9.58 3–4 2 TRT .17 (.21) .39 (.11) .17 (.11)
Cunningham &
Stanovich (1991)
Published North America
(United States)
English 134 46 11.17 4–6 2 TRT .50 (.09) .32 (.09) .59 (.09) .58 (.09) .32 (.09)
Cunningham &
Stanovich (1993)
Published North America
(United States)
English 26 62 6.92 1 2 TRT .04 (.12) .59 (.17) .70 (.15)
Cunningham &
Stanovich (1997)
Published North America
(United States)
English 27 56 16.75 11 2 A MRT .87 (.23) .68 (.20) .32 (.20)
Cunningham et al.
Published North America
(United States)
English 39 51 9.42 3 1 TRT .59 (.12)
Ecalle & Magnan
(2008, Study 1)
Published Europe (France) Other 57 6.20 1 2 A T
.01 (.11) .21 (.14) .19 (.14) .06 (.14)
Ecalle & Magnan
(2008, Study 2)
Published Europe (France) Other 60 8.34 2–3 2 A T
.23 (.13) .37 (.13) .45 (.13)
Ecalle & Magnan
(2008, Study 3)
Published Europe (France) Other 60 10.49 4–5 2 A T
.56 (.13) .54 (.13) .39 (.13)
Echols et al. (1996) Published North America
(United States)
English 157 54 10.58 4–6 2 A TRT .49 (.14) .54 (.06)
Goff et al. (2005) Published Australia English 180 10.17 3–5 2 TRT .39 (.08) .44 (.08) .30 (.08)
Grant et al. (2008,
Study 1)
North America
English 26 46 8.83 3 1 TRT .17 (.21) .66 (.21) .40 (.21) .56 (.09)
Grant et al. (2008,
Study 2)
North America
English 24 42 8.83 3 1 TRT .58 (.22) .62 (.22) .29 (.22) .47 (.10)
Grant et al. (2008,
Study 2)
North America
English 18 56 8.63 3 2 TRT .41 (.26) .14 (.26) .07 (.26) .13 (.12)
Griffiths & Snowling
Published Europe (United
English 59 12.17 Large 1 A TRT .26 (.19)
Kail et al. (1999) Published North America
(United States)
English 168 49 10.20 Large 2 A MRT .83 (.08) .91 (.08)
(table continues)
Table 3 (continued)
checklist N
(M, years) Grade
Fisher’s z(SE)
Oral Comp Basics Word rec Spelling IQ
Kim & Krashen
Published Asia (Korea) English 103 0 High 2 A MRT .68 (.07)
Leach et al. (2003,
Study 1)
Published North America
(United States)
English 44 55 10.50 4–5 1 vs. 2 TRT .07 (.15)
Leach et al. (2003,
Study 2)
Published North America
(United States)
English 60 45 10.50 4–5 1 vs. 2 TRT .17 (.13)
Lynch (2004) Unpublished
North America
(United States)
English 56 45 2 2 TRT .23 (.15) .34 (.15)
McBride-Chang et al.
(1993, Study 1)
Published North America
(United States)
English 36 69 12.90 5–9 1 TRT .21 (.18) .76 (.18) .60 (.18) .46 (.13) .27 (.18)
McBride-Chang et al.
(1993, Study 2)
Published North America
(United States)
English 49 49 12.40 5–8 2 TRT .50 (.15) .33 (.15) .19 (.15) .36 (.15) .39 (.15)
McBride-Chang &
Chang (1995)
Published Asia (China) Other 100 59 11.00 5 TRT .47 (.11) .30 (.11)
McBride-Chang &
Chang (1996)
Published North America
(United States)
English 126 41 Large 2 TRT .46 (.09) .35 (.09) .56 (.09)
McDowell et al.
Published North America
(United States)
English 158 48 8.17 2 2 TRT .10 (.08) .10 (.08) .13 (.08) .14 (.08) .02 (.08)
McQuillan & Au
Published North America
(United States)
English 24 42 17.50 11 2 A MRT .55 (.15)
McQuillan (2006) Published North America
(United States)
English 133 52 9–12 1 ART .46 (.09)
Ricketts et al. (2007) Published Europe (United
English 30 27 10.07 vs. 9.99 Primary 1 vs. 2 ART .09 (.18)
Se´ne´chal & LeFevre
Published North America
English 45 51 6.42 1 2 TRT .58 (.15) .42 (.15) .26 (.09) .58 (.11) .40 (.15)
Shankweiler et al.
Published North America
(United States)
English 86 15.17 9 1 MRT .69 (.11) .44 (.11) .39 (.11) .63 (.06)
Published North America
(United States)
English 61 48 8.62 3 2 TRT .09 (.13)
Stuart (2004) Published Europe (United
English 53 7.40 2 1 ART .34 (.13)
Note. Only aggregated effect sizes per outcome domain are provided here. See Table 7 for weighted combined effect sizes on separate outcome variables.
The sample size for the meta-analysis can be smaller based on the data available to calculate Fisher’s z.
Exact grade (range), if not provided: Large large range; Primary primary school;
High high school.
Ability level: 1 lower abilities, 2 age-appropriate abilities, 1 vs. 2 lower versus age-appropriate abilities, 1 vs. 3 lower versus high abilities.
Checklist: ART
Author Recognition Test; TRT Title Recognition Test; MRT Magazine Recognition Test; A TRT Author and Title Recognition Test; A MRT Author and Magazine Recognition Test;
ATMRT Author, Title, and Magazine Recognition Test.
Transformed association (Fisher’s z) between checklist and oral language composite (Oral), reading comprehension (Comp), basic
reading skills composite of alphabet knowledge, phonological processing, and/or orthographic processing (Basics), word recognition composite of word identification and/or word attack (Word rec),
word spelling (Spelling), and IQ.
Conference contribution.
Table 4
Moderators and Outcomes per Study for Meta-Analysis 3: Undergraduate and Graduate Students
checklist N
(M, years)
Fisher’s z(SE)
Oral Comp Basics Word rec Spelling IQ Acad ach
Acheson et al. (2008) Published North America
(United States)
English 99 20.30 U 2 ART .30 (.08)
MRT .03 (.08)
Beech (2002) Published Europe (United
English 110 18 20.20 U 2 ART .65 (.07) .08 (.06) .46 (.10)
Burt & Fury (2000) Published Australia English 100 49 19.90 U 2 ART .46 (.10) .29 (.10) .35 (.11)
Burt (2006) Published Australia English 112 30 19.80 U 2 ART .25 (.06) .44 (.10)
Chateau & Jared
Published North America
English 64 U 2 ART .42 (.13) .35 (.10)
Grant et al. (2007,
Study 1)
Published North America
English 17 24 18.29 U 2 ART .87 (.27) .45 (.27)
MRT .18 (.27) .27 (.27)
Grant et al. (2007,
Study 2)
Published North America
English 13 54 21.33 U 1 ART .56 (.32) .33 (.32)
MRT .81 (.32) .79 (.32)
Hall et al. (1996) Published North America
(United States)
English 97 18 U 2 ART .66 (.10)
MRT .60 (.10)
Holmes & Ng (1993) Published Australia English 36 19 U 1 vs. 3 ART .76 (.17)
Holmes & Castles
(2001) Published Australia English 52 17 18.83 U 1 vs. 3 ART .15 (.14)
Kennedy (1996) Unpublished
North America
English 72 52 20.70 U 2 ART .76 (.12) .66 (.12) .22 (.08) .32 (.11)
Krashen & Kim
Published North America
(United States)
English 45 27 U G 2 ART 1.05 (.15)
MRT .85 (.15)
Lewellen et al. (1993) Published North America
(United States)
English 70 U 1 vs. 2 ART .61 (.26) .38 (.12) .59 (.12)
MRT .39 (.20) .13 (.12) .50 (.12)
Lundquist (2004) Unpublished
North America
(United States)
English 63 46 U 1 vs. 3 ART .66 (.13) .22 (.13) .22 (.13) .22 (.13) .22 (.09) .27 (.13)
MRT .55 (.13) .22 (.13) .22 (.13) .27 (.13) .22 (.09) .47 (.13)
Martin-Chang &
Gould (2008)
Published North America
English 171 16 U 2 ART .62 (.08) .69 (.08) .16 (.08)
Masterson & Hayes
Europe (United
English 80 24.10 S E 2 ART .71 (.11) .28 (.11) .65 (.11)
Osana et al. (2007) Published North America
English 112 46 23.70 U 2 ART .79 (.10) .28 (.10) .10 (.10) .13 (.10)
Rodrigo et al. (1996) Published North America
(United States)
Other 19 S E 2 ART .97 (.25)
Sears et al. (2008,
Study 1)
Published North America
English 75 U G 2 ART .21 (.08)
Sears et al. (2008,
Study 2)
Published North America
English 76 U G 2 ART .48 (.11)
Siddiqui et al. (1998) Published North America
English 133 32 25.80 U G 2 ART .38 (.09)
Stanovich & West
(1989, Study 1)
Published North America
(United States)
English 61 16 U 2 ART .50 (.13)
MRT .05 (.13)
Stanovich & West
(1989, Study 2)
Published North America English 180 37 U 2 ART .38 (.08) .32 (.04) .46 (.06) .45 (.08)
MRT .30 (.08) .03 (.04) .20 (.05) .11 (.08)
Stanovich &
Cunningham (1992)
Published North America English 300 38 U 2 ART .73 (.04) .60 (.06) .56 (.06) .31 (.06)
MRT .64 (.04) .52 (.06) .39 (.06) .41 (.06)
Stanovich &
Cunningham (1993)
Published North America
(United States)
English 268 34 U 2 ART .47 (.06) .31 (.06) .34 (.06)
MRT .47 (.06) .30 (.06) .20 (.06)
(table continues)
books (k13, n980), a child-author recognition test that lists
authors of children’s storybooks (k7, n576), and/or an adult-
author recognition test comprising authors of adult fiction (k8, n
658). Children in Grades 1–12 mostly completed a title recognition
test (k
32, n2,311; k
14, n1,087; k
7, n
394), whereas undergraduate and graduate students all completed an
author recognition test (k
1, n80; k
30, n2,709;
17, n1,630). Overall, print exposure checklists contained
more true items than foils (M
total items
51.94, SD 29.78; range:
8–150; M
% true items
60.65%, SD 10.35) and showed good mean
reliabilities (Cronbach’s ␣⫽.75–.89). As can be seen in Table 5,
parents’ knowledge of adult fiction correlated rather strongly with
their knowledge of children’s literature (r.48, p.001). Within
the set of students, the author recognition test correlated strongly with
the magazine recognition test (r.60, p.001).
A small subset of studies also administered a self-report home
literacy environment questionnaire (k
10, n783; k
5, n445; k
8, n770) and/or an activity preference
questionnaire with forced-choice questions that contrasted reading as
well as television with other leisure time activities (k
2, n90; k
5, n634). With parents as respon-
dents, the number of books at home was significantly more strongly
related to knowledge of children’s literature (r.46, p.001) than
a single item about the frequency of shared book reading (r.22,
p.001) as appeared from nonoverlapping 95% CIs. The correla-
tions between undergraduate and graduate students’ print exposure
checklist scores and activity preference scores for reading were sig-
nificantly higher for the author recognition test (r.45, p.001)
than for the magazine recognition test (r.24, p.001). In the same
vein, the author recognition test (r.38, p.001) was more strongly
related to the home literacy composite than the magazine recognition
test (r.25, p.001). Interestingly, a preference for television
viewing correlated negatively with a students’ score on the author
recognition test (r⫽⫺.18, p.05).
Meta-Analysis 1: Preschool and Kindergarten
In the set of 2- to 6-year-old children (M
56.95 months,
SD 10.40), the correlation between oral language skills and print
exposure checklists of children’s literature was moderate (k12,
r.34, p.001). An additional 478 nonsignificant studies would
be needed to transform this significant result into a nonsignificant
effect size (see Table 6, which presents fail-safe numbers for the
effect sizes presented hereafter). Similar, moderate correlations
were found for receptive (k9, r.33, p.001) and expressive
vocabulary skills (k4, r.35, p.001).
To compare these effect sizes with a matched set of studies in
which only a home literacy self-report questionnaire was admin-
istered, we calculated the weighted average with a composite of
home literacy questions and the frequency of shared book reading
as a single item in 14 studies that resembled the print exposure
studies in terms of number of children, mean age, home language,
and socioeconomic status. First, the correlations between oral
language and the home literacy composite in matched studies (k
11, r.32, p.001) were significantly stronger than the
correlations with the frequency of shared book reading in matched
studies (k6, r.16, p.01). Within the set of print exposure
studies, the same pattern was present when comparing the effect
Table 4 (continued)
checklist N
(M, years)
Fisher’s z(SE)
Oral Comp Basics Word rec Spelling IQ Acad ach
Stanovich et al.
Published North America English 133 28 19.10 U 2 ART .74 (.09) .42 (.09)
MRT .44 (.09) .41 (.09)
West & Stanovich
Published North America English 90 24 G 2 ART .24 (.11) .03 (.11)
MRT .29 (.11) .10 (.11)
Wolforth (2000,
Study 1)
North America
English 20 35 U G 1 ART .59 (.24) .16 (.17) .16 (.24) .16 (.24)
MRT .16 (.24) .16 (.17) .16 (.24) .16 (.24)
Wolforth (2000,
Study 2)
North America
English 21 48 U G 1 ART .55 (.24) .35 (.20) .16 (.24) .69 (.24)
MRT .16 (.24) .29 (.17) .16 (.24) .16 (.24)
Wolforth (2000,
Study 3)
North America
English 20 40 U G 2 ART .16 (.24) .47 (.27) .16 (.24) .16 (.24)
MRT .16 (.24) .16 (.17) .16 (.24) .16 (.24)
Note. Only aggregated effect sizes per outcome domain are provided here. See Table 8 for weighted combined effect sizes on separate outcome variables.
The sample size for the meta-analysis can be smaller based on the data available to calculate Fisher’s z.
Student type: undergraduate (U), graduate (G), students and employees (S E).
level: 1 lower abilities, 2 age-appropriate abilities, 1 vs. 2 lower versus age-appropriate abilities, 1 vs. 3 lower versus high abilities.
Checklist: ART Author Recognition Test; MRT
Magazine Recognition Test.
Transformed association (Fisher’s z) between checklist and oral language composite (Oral), reading comprehension (Comp), basic reading skills composite of
phonological and/or orthographic processing (Basics), word recognition composite of word identification and/or word attack (Word rec), word spelling (Spelling), IQ, and academic achievement
indicators as grade point average and Scholastic Assessment Test and American College Testing scores (Acad ach).
Conference contribution.
sizes for print exposure checklists on children’s literature with
a single question about parent–child reading frequency (k8, r
.21, p.001), whereas parents’ estimation of the total number of
books at home (k5, r.32, p.001) revealed almost identical
correlations with oral language as print exposure checklists. Sec-
ond, when we contrasted the matched self-report studies with the
set of print exposure studies, the home literacy composite revealed
similar combined effect sizes with oral language to the set of print
exposure studies. In sum, both composite scores of children’s
home literacy environment and print exposure checklists are re-
lated moderately to oral language.
Print exposure showed a moderate effect size for basic reading
skills as well (k8, r.29, p.001), and the 95% CI showed
overlap with the CI of oral language. The set of matched studies
revealed small correlations with the basic reading composite
13, r.18, p.001; k
7, r.18, p.001),
and these were significantly smaller than for oral language, given
nonoverlapping CIs (see Figure 1).
Unfortunately, it was not possible to study age effects by con-
trasting preschool and kindergarten children or entering M
a metaregression, because seven studies included large, overlap-
ping age ranges. Outcomes of print exposure studies that were
carried out by Se´ne´chal and colleagues (Se´ne´chal, 2000; Se´ne´chal
et al., 1996, 1998, 2008), who carried out nearly half of all studies
with the checklist for children’s literature (k5), did not signif-
icantly differ from studies from other research groups, Q
.20, p.05.
Meta-Analysis 2: Grades 1–12
For children between 6.2 and 17.5 years of age (M
years, SD 2.61), the effect sizes between print exposure and all
outcome measures ranged between .15 and .45. Standardized and
unstandardized tests revealed comparable results, and are pre-
sented as a composite here (see Table 7 for separate estimates and
fail-safe numbers).
Overall, print exposure was moderately related to oral language
skills (k18, r.45, p.001) and reading comprehension (k
21, r.36, p.001). Second, moderate effect sizes for word
recognition (k24, r.38, p.001) and spelling (k9, r
.42, p.001) differed significantly from the smaller summary
estimates that were found for basic reading skills (k18, r.23,
p.001). The 95% CIs for oral language skills, word recognition,
and spelling did overlap, whereas oral language did significantly
differ from basic reading skills. In addition, IQ (k8, r.15,
p.05) seemed to be affected significantly less by print exposure
than oral language, reading comprehension, word recognition, and
To test whether the effect sizes between print exposure and
outcome measures would be higher as a function of age, we
conducted metaregression analyses by entering mean age as a
continuous variable. The random model (method of moment)
metaregression was significant for oral language (Q
p.05, B
.04), basic reading skills (Q
7.63, p.01,
.03), and IQ (Q
9.48, p.01, B
implying (if longitudinal reasoning could be applied to these
cross-sectional data) that children gain .04, .03, and .06 points,
respectively, each year as they get older, which will result in an
increase of .36–.72 standard deviations in the course of 12 years.
Furthermore, the slopes of reading comprehension (Q
p.09, B
.04) and spelling skills (Q
3.22, p.07,
.04) approached significance, whereas there was no such
a trend for word recognition (Q
.09, p.50). Because a
small number of studies might bias the results of regressions
(Borenstein et al., 2009), we also conducted moderator analyses in
which we categorized children’s grades into primary (Grades 1–4),
middle (Grades 5–8), and high school (Grades 9–12). It should be
Table 5
Interrelations Between Print Exposure Checklists and Home Literacy Questionnaires Across Meta-Analyses
Children’s literature (CAR CTR) Adult fiction (AAR)
kFisher’s z95% CI QI
Nfail-safe kFisher’s z95% CI QI
Preschool and kindergarten
Adult fiction (AAR) 4 .52
[.32, .72] 14.06
78.66 13
Frequency reading to child 8 .22
[.14, .30] 8.9 21.36 66 4 .14 [.00, .28] 4.5 33.27 2
Number of books at home 5 .50
[.42, .58] 1.46 0.00 172 4 .36
[.25, .47] 0.25 0.00 35
Author Recognition Test (ART) Magazine Recognition Test (MRT)
Grades 1–12
HLE-composite 5 .23
[.06, .39] 16.49
75.74 34
Undergraduate and graduate students
MRT 14 .70
[.59, .81] 36.79
67.39 1,662
HLE-composite 6 .40
[.34, .47] 4.54 0.00 178 5 .25
[.16, .34] 9.4 0.83 66
Activity preference
Reading 5 .48
[.38, .57] 4.93 18.82 139 4 .24
[.15, .34] 1.12 0.00 16
Television 4 .18
[.34, .02] 5.41 44.59 9 3
Note. Nonsignificant Qs imply homogeneity (df k1); I
reflects the degree of inconsistency among studies. CAR CTR Child-Author
Recognition and Child-Title Recognition Tests; AAR Adult-Author Recognition Test; knumber of studies; CI confidence interval; HLE home
literacy environment.
noted that studies assessing high school students could be included
only in the analysis for oral language, as the other skills were not
typically assessed for them. Significant grade differences were
present for oral language, Q(2) 11.81, p.01 (k
6, r
.36, p.001; k
7, r.44, p.001; k
4, r.55,
p.001), and word recognition, Q(1) 4.34, p.05 (k
16, r.31, p.001; k
5, r.48, p.001), but did not
appear for basic reading skills, Q(1) 2.18, p.05, and reading
comprehension, Q(1) 2.29, p.05. In short, the correlations
between print exposure and oral language were progressively
Table 6
Effect Sizes Between Print Exposure and Language and Basic Reading Outcomes for the Checklist Studies and the Matched Self-
Report Questionnaire Studies in Preschool and Kindergarten
Oral Basic reading skills
Oral RV EV Basics AK PP OP
Print exposure studies
Children’s literature (CAR CTR)
k1294858 2
95% CI [.27, .42] [.26, .43] [.22, .51 [.22, .38] [.18, .36] [.21, .36]
Q19.13 11.84 5.29 13.29 2.80 6.49
42.48 32.41 37.23 47.31 0.00 0.00
Nfail-safe 478 224 29 222 35 102
Adult fiction (AAR)
k863514 4
95% CI [.20, .33] [.19, .39] [.21, .34] [.17, .36] [.01, .40]
Q7.20 8.14 2.77 0.40 10.62
2.72 26.5 0.00 0.00 71.74
Nfail-safe 123 62 73 25 12
HLE Questionnaire
Frequency reading to child
k872423 1
95% CI [.13, .29] [.11, .28] [.18, .39]
Q7.72 3.45 2.66
9.28 0.00 0.00
Nfail-safe 60 25 22
Number of books at home
k542212 1
95% CI [.24, .43] [.22, .46]
Q3.72 3.58
0.00 16.22
Nfail-safe 52 35
Matched studies
HLE Questionnaire
Composite Scale
k11 8 6 13 10 6 0
95% CI [.27, .40 [.22, .48 [.22, .43 [.12, .24] [.10, .28] [.15, .27]
Q 12.94 15.64
3.29 29.08
22.69 55.24 0.00 34.88 48.30 0.00
Nfail-safe 372 119 60 287 162 49
Frequency reading to child
k653734 0
95% CI [.10, .22] [.06, .24] [.11, .24] [.07, .26]
Q0.68 0.94 2.33 0.10
0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Nfail-safe 28 9 37 7
Note. Nonsignificant Qs imply homogeneity (df k1); I
reflects the degree of inconsistency among studies. Oral oral language composite: RV
receptive vocabulary, EV expressive vocabulary; Basics basic reading composite: AK alphabet knowledge, PP phonological processing, OP
orthographic processing; CAR CTR Child-Author and Title Recognition Tests; AAR Adult-Author Recognition Test; knumber of studies;
CI confidence interval; HLE home literacy environment.
stronger at higher levels of education. This pattern also seemed to
emerge for technical reading skills and IQ from primary to middle
We also contrasted studies that contained children with age-
appropriate abilities with studies that tested children with lower
reading abilities. In line with our third hypothesis, no ability-level
differences were detected for unconstrained skills such as oral
language, Q(1) 1.14, p.05, and reading comprehension,
Q(1) 0.01, p.05. However, the correlations between print
exposure and basic reading skills were significantly stronger for
children with lower ability levels (k7, r.39, p.001) than
for children with age-appropriate reading abilities (k11, r.20,
p.001), Q(1) 9.57, p.01. Such a distinction was not
detected for word recognition, Q(1) 0.57, p.05.
Meta-Analysis 3: Undergraduate and Graduate
In the set of 30 studies comprising college and university
students (M
21.00 years, SD 2.32), 17 included both author
and magazine recognition tests to measure print exposure. Overall,
author recognition tests showed stronger correlations with all
outcome variables than the magazine recognition tests: Ninety-five
percent CIs did not overlap for spelling outcomes and hardly
showed any overlap for the other skills (see Table 8). In this
section, therefore, we focus on author recognition checklists as the
indicator of print exposure. We did not detect any significant
differences between standardized and unstandardized tests, so we
present only composites.
Oral language skills showed strong correlations with print ex-
posure (k18, r.58, p.001), yielding a significantly
stronger association than the moderate effect size found for read-
ing comprehension (k11, r.41, p.001), as no overlap was
detected between 95% CIs. Technical reading and spelling skills
were small to moderately related to print exposure (k
6, r
.24, p.001; k
Word rec
9, r.34, p.001; k
14, r
.40, p.001). Academic achievement scores on the Scholastic
Assessment Test or American College Testing and grade point
average showed a moderate effect size (k10, r.30, p.001),
whereas IQ was related to print exposures with a small effect size
(k6, r.18, p.05). The effect sizes of technical reading and
spelling skills and general achievement measures were signifi-
cantly smaller than the correlation between print exposure and oral
language skills. Thus, in line with our second hypothesis, oral
language skills were more strongly related to print exposure than
technical reading and spelling skills. The correlation between print
CAR+CTR AAR No.books RFreq HLE-comp RFreq
Print Exposure Checklist Studies Matched Studies
Fisher's z'
Figure 1. Effect sizes and 95% confidence intervals of oral language and
basic reading skills in preschool and kindergarten for various home literacy
indicators within print exposure checklist studies and the matched set of
studies. CAR CTR Child-Author and Child-Title Recognition Test;
AAR Adult-Author Recognition Test; No. books number of books at
home (single item); RFreq reading frequency (single item); HLE-
comp composite of Home Literacy Environment Questionnaire.
Table 7
Effect Sizes for the Print Exposure Checklists (Author, Title, and Magazine Recognition Tests) and All Outcome Measures for Meta-
Analysis 2: Grades 1–12
Variable kFisher’ z95% CI QI
Oral language 18 .49
[.42, .56] 25.13 32.34 1,339
Standardized tests 11 .43
[.36, .50] 8.94 0.00 332
Unstandardized tests 11 .55
[.44, .66] 18.59
51.59 535
Reading comprehension 21 .38
[.27, .50] 88.35
77.36 994
Basic reading skills 18 .23
[.16, .29] 31.82 30.95 341
Alphabet knowledge 2
Phonological processing 14 .22
[.14, .29] 18.98 31.52 152
Orthographic processing 6 .34
[.21, .46] 4.74 0.00 52
Word recognition 24 .40
[.30, .50] 122.79
81.27 1,936
Word identification 22 .42
[.32, .53] 99.91
77.98 1,815
Word attack 9 .22
[.11, .33] 15.33 34.24 68
Spelling 9 .45
[.32, .58] 32.97
75.73 459
Standardized tests 3
Unstandardized tests 7 .48
[.37, .59] 10.78 44.34 261
General achievement
IQ 8 .15
[.03, .26] 15.47 44.82 26
Note. Nonsignificant Qs imply homogeneity (df k1); I
reflects the degree of inconsistency among studies. knumber of studies; CI confidence
exposure and reading comprehension outperformed the correlation
for basic reading skills (i.e., nonoverlapping 95% CIs) but not for
word recognition and spelling.
Only one of the moderators that could be tested revealed sig-
nificant group differences in any of the outcome measures. That is,
the effect sizes for students with age-appropriate or higher spelling
skills were significantly stronger (k8, r.45, p.001)
compared with studies that included students with a lower ability
(k6, r.29, p.001), Q(1) 4.86, p.05. This pattern did
not appear to be present for oral language, Q(1) 0.19, p.05.
Reciprocal Causation?
When all age groups are included across meta-analyses, the
strength of the correlation between print exposure and oral lan-
guage showed an increase (see Figure 2), whereas the correlations
with reading comprehension and technical reading and spelling
skills were stable, although they did increase within the set of
primary and middle school children. The cross-sectional nature of
these studies and variation in spread of scores on skills at different
points of mastery, however, stopped us from drawing definite
conclusions about print exposure as a consequence of reading
ability and as a contributor to further reading growth (i.e., about a
causal spiral). The number of longitudinal studies including print
exposure checklists was too small to test predictive paths with the
meta-analytic approach, but inspection of longitudinal outcomes
makes causality more plausible. For children who were followed
into elementary school, some researchers did not find predictive
relations (e.g., Evans, Shaw, & Bell, 2000; Spear-Swerling, 2006),
but others did. For instance, storybook exposure in preschool
and/or kindergarten significantly explained variance of reading
comprehension (6%) and word attack (6%) in first grade but not
second grade (Roth, Speece, & Cooper, 2002), reading at the end
of third grade (4%; Se´ne´chal & LeFevre, 2002), and reading
comprehension in fourth grade (4%; Se´ne´chal, 2006). Aram (2005)
entered the home literacy environment composite in kindergarten
as a first step in predicting second-grade skills, explaining 20% of
the variance in reading comprehension, 12% in orthographic pro-
cessing, 16% in spelling, and 12% in text reading fluency, respec-
Children’s own report of print exposure at the end of first grade
accounted for 6% of the variance in their third-grade reading, after
controlling for children’s basic reading skills at the beginning of first
grade (Se´ne´chal & LeFevre, 2002). In the same vein, print exposure
in third grade contributed to reading comprehension in fifth grade
after controlling for third-grade reading comprehension (7%–11%;
Cipielewski & Stanovich, 1992). Print exposure in fourth to sixth
graders explained 8% of oral language and 2% in spelling scores
Table 8
Effect Sizes for Print Exposure Checklists and All Outcome Measures for Meta-Analysis 3: Undergraduate and
Graduate Students
Author recognition test Magazine recognition test
kFisher’s z95% CI QI
Nfail-safe kFisher’s z95% CI QI
Oral language 18 .66
[.57, .74] 38.25
55.55 2,581 11 .46
[.32, .59] 27.36
63.45 409
Standardized tests 12 .67
[.58, .75] 15.08 27.07 1,102 8 .48
[.32, .63] 14.01 50.05 225
Unstandardized tests 7 .56
[.37, .76] 46.85
81.04 455 4 .43
[.19, .66] 12.58
76.15 53
Reading comprehension 11 .44
[.33, .55] 31.93
68.68 644 6 .41
[.30, .53] 10.43 52.04 168
Basic reading skills 6 .24
[.15, .33] 12.32
59.43 105 2
Phonological processing 5 .19
[.11, .27] 7.11 25.65 38 2
Orthographic processing 5 .26
[.15, .37] 8.16 50.98 54 1
Word recognition 9 .35
[.26, .43] 9.89 19.10 178 5 .20
[.13, .28] 0.87 0.00 21
Word identification 8 .39
[.28, .51] 12.13 42.27 158 4 .24
[.12, .35] 0.55 0.00 9
Word attack 6 .36
[.29, .44] 5.34 6.43 107 2
Spelling 14 .42
[.33, .51] 26.75
51.40 651 8 .20
[.08, .31] 12.76 45.15 38
Standardized tests 9 .43
[.33, .54] 14.26 43.89 265 7 .25
[.15, .35] 7.8 23.07 42
Unstandardized tests 9 .37
[.27, .46] 12.67 36.86 220 4 .06 [.03, .15] 3.85 0.00 1
General achievement
IQ 6 .18
[.00, .35] 25.01
73.92 43 5 .34
[.26, .42] 3.67 0.00 46
Academic achievement 10 .31
[.21, .41] 21.56
62.90 211 8 .28
[.14, .42] 26.17
73.28 111
Note. Nonsignificant Qs imply homogeneity (df k1); I
reflects the degree of inconsistency among studies. knumber of studies; CI confidence
P + K Grades 1–4 Grades 5–8 Grades 9–12 U + G
Fisher's z'
Figure 2. Effect size estimates and 95% confidence intervals for associ-
ations between print exposure and oral language across years of education.
PKpreschool and kindergarten children; U Gundergraduate
and graduate students.
1.5 years later (Echols, West, Stanovich, & Zehr, 1996). Con-
versely, two longitudinal studies have shown that print exposure
can be predicted by earlier comprehension and technical reading
skills. First, reading comprehension and word identification in first
grade accounted for 10%–12% of the variance in 11th-grade print
exposure, as did first-grade oral language for 7% and first-grade IQ
(5% of the variance predicted), after 11th-grade reading compre-
hension was taken into account (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1997).
Third-grade as well as fifth-grade reading comprehension pre-
dicted 11th-grade print exposure as well (22% and 15%, respec-
tively). Second, a variety of basic reading skills, word recognition,
and spelling tests in Grades 1 and 2 correlated significantly with
third-grade print exposure, ranging between .40 and .72 (Cunning-
ham, Perry, & Stanovich, 2001).
We performed a series of meta-analyses on 99 studies (N
7,669) that focused on leisure time reading of preschoolers and
kindergartners, children attending Grades 1–12, and college and
university students. The main findings are consistent with a de-
velopmental model of reading comprehension and technical read-
ing and spelling, in which print exposure is considered to be a
driving force in shaping literacy. In short, it is posited that an early
start of shared book reading sets in motion a causal spiral, in which
print exposure stimulates language and reading development,
which, in turn, stimulates the quantity of print exposure (K. L.
Fletcher & Reese, 2005). For conventional readers, this reciprocal
mechanism results in growing interindividual differences in print
exposure that increase with years of education, as more skilled
readers will choose to read more and the keener readers will show
better comprehension and technical reading and spelling skills
(Bast & Reitsma, 1998; Cunningham et al., 1994). Although the
meta-analytic results presented here are largely cross-sectional,
precluding a strong stance supporting such a cascading model, the
stronger associations between print exposure and several key com-
ponents of reading skills from infancy to early adulthood are
consistent with such a perspective.
Overall, print exposure as inferred from checklists that assess
familiarity with book titles and authors or magazines appears to be
an important correlate of reading comprehension and technical
reading and spelling skill development. During their development,
children who choose to read books in their leisure time have larger
vocabularies, better reading comprehension, and better technical
reading and spelling skills than peers who do not read as fre-
quently. As is displayed in Figure 3, the meta-analyses revealed
that in the group of 2- to 6-year-old children, print exposure is
related, at moderate strength, with both oral language and basic
reading skills. Second, for children in Grades 1–12, the moderate
effect sizes regarding associations of print exposure with oral
language and reading comprehension are comparable to parallel
effect sizes found for word recognition and spelling and are
significantly stronger than for basic reading skills. Third, the
comprehension component (also including academic achievement)
and the technical reading and spelling component are moderately
to strongly related to print exposure for college and university
students, with the effect size for oral language skills the largest of
all. In the group of school-aged and university students, print
exposure is also related to intelligence, although effect sizes are
Crucially, when we approach our findings from a developmental
perspective, the pattern of associations with print exposure was
stronger across the age span from early childhood to young adult-
hood for oral language. Print exposure explains 12% of the vari-
ance in preschoolers’ and kindergartners’ oral language skills, 13%
in primary school, 19% in middle school, 30% in high school, and
34% at undergraduate and graduate level. The correlation with
print exposure also appears to become stronger for technical read-
ing skills and intelligence from primary school to middle school. In
Oral Comp Basics Word rec Spelling
a) P + K
Fisher's z'
Or al Co mp Bas ics W ord rec S pe lling
b) Grades 1–12
Fisher's z'
Oral Comp Basics Word rec Spelling
c) U + G
Fisher's z'
Figure 3. Effect sizes for the comprehension component (dark bars) and
technical reading and spelling component (lighter, striped bars) and 95%
confidence interval for studies on (a) preschool and kindergarten (P K)
children, (b) Grades 1–12, and (c) undergraduate and graduate students
(U G). Oral oral language; Comp reading comprehension; Basics
basic reading skills; Word rec word recognition.
addition, print exposure explains significantly more variance in the
basic reading skills of schoolchildren with lower reading abilities
(15%) than in their peers with age-appropriate reading abilities
(4%). Although these outcomes do not permit conclusions about
causality, the pattern of findings as well as a qualitative review of
longitudinal studies suggests that spiral causality is a plausible
interpretation of our findings.
Book Sharing With Preconventional Readers
In line with the snowball metaphor (Raikes et al., 2006), we
found that book sharing is associated not only with the develop-
ment of comprehension but also with technical reading skills that
are needed for an easy start at school (see Foster & Miller, 2007).
Interestingly, the meta-analysis reveals effects of children’s home
literacy experiences that are almost identical to those reported in a
previous quantitative meta-analysis comprising 33 studies between
1951 and 1993 (Bus et al., 1995). In Bus et al.’s (1995) meta-
analysis, the combined effect size was .32 for oral language and
.28 for reading skills versus .34 and .29, respectively, in the current
data, which covers studies between 1994 and 2009. Even though
the earlier meta-analysis included only studies with self-report
questionnaires (vs. print exposure checklists in the current meta-
analysis), it is striking that exposure to storybooks explained about
10%–12% of children’s language and 8% of children’s basic
reading skills in each investigation. Because effect sizes were
comparable for receptive and expressive vocabulary measures,
print exposure seems equally effective for language comprehen-
sion and language use. Due to insufficient numbers of pertinent
studies, we could not test the hypothesis that the association
between print exposure and basic reading skills was strongest for
kindergartners with more print knowledge, who are more inclined
to pay attention to print independently (M. T. de Jong & Bus,
2002; Evans et al., 2009).
As oral language and basic reading skills seem to be linked to
home environments that familiarize children with books and other
reading materials, we see no reason to argue about the recommen-
dation that parents start a reading routine early in children’s
development. Most longitudinal studies also support the expecta-
tion that such a routine prevents preconventional readers from
experiencing difficulties with understanding print and language in
books later on (Aram, 2005; Roth et al., 2002; Se´ne´chal, 2006;
Se´ne´chal & LeFevre, 2002). The additional finding that parents’
knowledge of adult fiction accounts for 7% of children’s oral
language and basic reading skills is in line with the notion of
intergenerational transmission of literacy. That is, if reading is a
source of pleasure in their own lives, parents are more inclined to
read to their children and engage them in stories (Bus, Leseman, &
Keultjes, 2000).
Independent Text Reading
Comprehension. The syntheses of print exposure studies
revealed moderate to strong effect sizes for oral language and
moderate effect sizes for reading comprehension, whereas some-
what smaller effect sizes were found for more distant indicators of
the comprehension component such as intelligence and indicators
of academic achievement like grade point average and American
College Testing and Scholastic Assessment Test scores. We argue
that a model of reciprocal causation best fits the development of
the comprehension component. Developing a reading habit de-
pends not only on environmental factors such as the availability of
books at home but also on readers’ language and comprehension
skills (Stanovich, 1986; Stanovich, Cunningham, & West, 1998).
The model predicts that the strength of the correlation between
print exposure and language and reading comprehension increases
with age, and is strongest for students in college or university who
are most likely to be “their own masters” in terms of choosing their
leisure time activities.
The comparisons of effect sizes in separate meta-analyses as
well as a metaregression in Grades 1–12 are consistent with this
model of reciprocal causation in particular for oral language. We
found a moderate correlation between print exposure and oral
language in preschool, kindergarten, primary, and middle school
children versus a strong correlation for high school students and
undergraduate and graduate students. Impressively, in the devel-
opment from early childhood to early adulthood, leisure time
reading becomes increasingly more important for language. In
early adulthood, 34% of the variance of oral language skills was
explained by students’ print exposure. We found a similar pattern
for intelligence across primary to middle school. Apparently, more
intelligent children are more interested in book reading; fiction
books cover a huge diversity of topics and thereby provide other
perspectives, problems, and/or insights than children might en-
counter in daily life (Hakemulder, 2000), potentially boosting
performance on intelligence tests. More studies are needed, how-
ever, that follow children and students longitudinally to learn more
about the processes that explain how reading might make us
smarter. Apart from the range of cognitive variables as studied in
this meta-analysis, future studies should also take into account
individual differences in broader cognitive, motivational, socio-
emotional, and environmental factors such as general cultural
knowledge, interest in reading, skills of empathy and social un-
derstanding, and the development of reading routines among other
leisure time activities (e.g., computer use and television).
We expected that effect sizes for the association between print
exposure and reading comprehension would also increase with
educational level, because readers’ background knowledge ex-
pands and their reading strategies get more sophisticated with
development (Paris, 2005). However, effect sizes for reading com-
prehension remained fairly consistent in all age groups. It may be
too early to conclude that our findings are in contrast to the model
of reciprocal causation, because the comprehension measures seem
to have limitations that are likely to influence the effect sizes of
print exposure within and across educational levels.
First, reading comprehension tests with relatively brief texts
may be easier to complete successfully for older students as
compared with younger children, leading to ceiling effects in the
oldest age groups that limit the strength of the correlations with
print exposure. Second, the expected differences between age
groups may not have been captured, because the comprehension
measures seem to assess different skills in younger and older
readers (Cain & Oakhill, 2006; J. M. Fletcher, 2006; Keenan,
Betjemann, & Olson, 2008). For example, variation in response
formats may have masked differences between age groups:
Multiple-choice and open-ended questions, which often require
integration of text elements, were mainly used in studies on un-
dergraduate and graduate students, whereas relatively easier cloze
tasks (“Which alternative word fits best in the sentence?”), which
depend more on children’s word reading abilities and sentence
comprehension, were more often applied in schoolchildren. Fur-
thermore, it was impossible to rule out that test scores reflect more
general test-taking strategies than reading comprehension (e.g.,
Ozuru, Rowe, O’Reilly, & McNamara, 2008). Third, most reading
comprehension tests may not measure skills that are specific to the
comprehension of novels such as following a multilayered plot and
multiple characters throughout hundreds of pages of text as well as
understanding complex figures of speech (i.e., metaphors, irony;
Duke, 2010). In contrast, texts in contemporary comprehension
tests often comprise brief passages in a variety of genres (e.g.,
argumentative, expository, narrative) that cover a wide range of
Technical reading and spelling. Although instruction is
considered to play a main role in learning to read texts with
increasing accuracy and fluency (National Reading Panel, 2000),
the current findings show that print exposure also makes a differ-
ence to conventional readers’ technical reading and spelling skills.
Examining the influence of age in the set of studies on school-aged
children, we found that the correlations between print exposure
and skills such as basic reading skills, word recognition, and
spelling are higher as in middle school than in primary school
samples, which is in line with reciprocal causality. Readers with
higher technical reading and spelling skills are more inclined to
read, and more print exposure promotes technical reading and
spelling skills. Even in the studies on college and university
students, we found that effect sizes for technical reading and
spelling skills in relation to print exposure were on the same level.
One reason may be that these print exposure studies were con-
ducted in countries with opaque languages such as English,
French, and Chinese, where children have to familiarize with
numerous letter clusters in order to become a skilled reader and
where they reach a ceiling in their technical reading and spelling
development later than children who learn to read in transparent
languages (Furnes & Samuelsson, 2010; Patel et al., 2004; Ziegler
& Goswami, 2005). To test this interpretation, it will be important
to examine technical reading and spelling skills of schoolchildren
and students who learn to read in more transparent languages (see
also Share, 2008). We expect that the technical reading and spell-
ing skills of beginning readers of a language with less extreme
ambiguity of spelling–sound correspondences than English will
benefit from independent print exposure for a shorter developmen-
tal period.
Another reason for the unexpected finding that such associations
appear to persist into adulthood may be that outcome measures are
constructed in a way that test scores will continue to explain
variance in each age group and remain sensitive to differences in
students’ ability levels even at higher reading proficiency levels.
Test adjustments may be made across development to avoid ceil-
ing effects, resulting in unconstrained measures for constrained
skills (Paris & Luo, 2010). For instance, the difficulty of words
that students must write correctly in a spelling task can be in-
creased for each age group, so that there is enough variance left in
the performance of participants to be predicted by print exposure
In general, a shift occurs in the focus and content of technical
reading and spelling measures that are used at different educational
levels. For example, alphabet knowledge is measured only in
preschoolers, kindergartners, and first graders, which seems meth-
odologically and theoretically sound, as no group variance will be
left once children received some formal reading instruction and
know all letters of the alphabet (Paris, 2005). Phonological and
orthographic processing and word recognition appear to be pre-
dominantly assessed in children attending primary school, when
the most rapid growth in these skills can be expected. By way of
contrast, of all the technical reading and spelling skills assessed in
college and university students, spelling skills were taken into
account more often. It can be argued that at this educational level,
variance in reading proficiency may not be effectively captured by
a receptive test such as orthographic processing in which correct
spellings have to be selected from words that sound similar or by
word recognition tasks in which an upper limit may be reached for
the speed at which single words can be pronounced. Instead,
spelling may be a preferable measure of word form knowledge
because exact knowledge of word forms, especially in English, has
to be available in order to write words correctly (Bourassa &
Treiman, 2001). As a result of such discrepancies in assessments,
direct comparisons of effect sizes for technical reading and spell-
ing skills across age groups may be complicated.
Low-Ability Readers
Leisure time reading is especially important for low-ability
readers. We found that the basic reading skills of children in
primary and middle school with a lower ability level were more
strongly related to print exposure as compared with higher ability
readers. When low-ability readers have experience with books at
home, they practice basic reading skills more, and as a result they
become more accurate and fluent in reading text than their lower
ability peers who are less exposed to print. The findings suggest
that stimulating leisure time reading should be an effective inter-
vention for low-ability readers as is predicted by the self-teaching
hypothesis (Share, 1995). However, for children with reading
difficulties, it may not be easy to get access to age- and interest-
appropriate materials that match their reading ability level, and
these children may therefore be more dependent on assistance
from their parents and/or teachers in selecting stimulating books
(Allington & McGill-Franzen, 2008; Kim & White, 2008; Martin
et al., 2009).
As for spelling, we found that low-ability readers in studies on
college and university students benefited less from print exposure
than students whose reading skills fell into the normal range. Older
skilled readers may be more capable of deriving word spellings
during independent print exposure than less skilled older readers
(Ehri & Saltmarsh, 1995; Reitsma, 1983). We suggest that low-
ability readers’ uptake of word-specific orthographic details may
be limited because they pay attention to words in a text in a way
that is qualitatively different from that of more proficient readers.
Low-ability readers’ use of context information as a compensatory
reading strategy may, for instance, interfere with learning word
spellings from exposure to print (Ehri & Wilce, 1980; Stanovich,
1986). In all, the current results indicate that encouraging skilled
readers to read more may turn them into better spellers, an effect
that should not be expected to the same extent for low-ability
readers (Nunes & Bryant, 2009; Perfetti & Hart, 2002).
Measurement of Print Exposure
One strength of our meta-analysis is that we were able to
compare methods for assessing print exposure by matching studies
that administered self-report questionnaires with those using print
exposure checklists in the youngest group of preconventional
readers. A single question about frequency of book reading re-
vealed weaker correlations with oral language and basic reading
skills than print exposure checklists. Such a simple measure is
more likely to be positively skewed because it suffers more from
(social desirability) biases and therefore shows lower predictive
power than the checklist. However, we found no discrepancy
between print exposure checklists and self-report questionnaires
when a home literacy composite was used that included a more
extensive—and thus more time-consuming—set of questions
about the home literacy environment (e.g., the age at which parents
started reading, visits to the library and bookstores, number of
persons who read to children, parents’ ability to mention children’s
favorite books). The number of books at home—another rather
objective indicator of reading volume—reveals effect sizes com-
parable with print exposure checklists, further stressing the validity
of the checklists as indicators of print exposure.
A relatively small percentage of school-aged children and col-
lege and university students completed both a print exposure
checklist and a self-report questionnaire about their reading activ-
ities or home literacy environment. The moderate to strong corre-
lations between both measurement methods implies that there is
overlap in the constructs that are measured by the checklists and
questionnaires in these age groups. Interestingly, students who
indicated preferring reading as a leisure time activity to other
activities such as listening to music scored higher on print expo-
sure checklists, whereas students who preferred watching televi-
sion to reading scored significantly lower on print exposure check-
lists. Apparently, print exposure checklists distinguish frequent
readers from students who are less likely to choose to read during
leisure time. Print exposure checklists and simply counting books
are also less intrusive measures to administer and easier to score
than self-report questionnaires. We conclude that checklists and
counting books should be preferred as methods to assess print
exposure across ages.
Limitations and Future Directions
There are four main limitations of the current meta-analysis. The
first is that the findings overrely on studies conducted in English,
whereas different developmental patterns might be found for trans-
parent languages with shallow orthographies.
Second, children from low socioeconomic backgrounds were
rarely studied in the youngest age group, probably because re-
searchers expect floor effects on print exposure checklists in
families with limited means and/or few literacy activities. We
expect effect sizes in the same range as were detected in our
meta-analysis if researchers would succeed to create print expo-
sure checklists that are sensitive to children with varying home
literacy experiences. In selecting titles or authors, researchers
should take into account that preferences for leisure time reading
materials may vary across socioeconomic status groups and related
factors such as ethnicity.
Third, unlike in the set of studies on schoolchildren and students
in which the same respondent completed the checklist as well as
outcome measures, the effect sizes in the youngest group of
children were not based on a single respondent. Parents completed
the checklists, and preconventional readers completed the outcome
measures, which precludes the hypothesis that a third factor such
as memory skills or intelligence explains the relation between print
exposure and cognitive outcomes (Davidse et al., 2010). Interest-
ingly, the effect sizes that are found for primary school children
who were administered both a print exposure checklist and an oral
language measure (r.36) were almost identical to the effect
sizes found when parents of somewhat younger children filled in
the print exposure checklists and children completed the language
test (r.34). Therefore, there is not much evidence that the
associations merely reflect children’s general cognitive capacity.
A fourth limitation is that different measures may have different
levels of reliability, which may place constraints on correlations
with criterion measures. Larger measurement errors may result in
lower correlations (Hunter & Schmidt, 1990). However, in the
present set of studies, the reliabilities of the measures for print
exposure and reading skills were homogeneous and comparably
high. For example, the range of reported Cronbach’s alpha reli-
abilities for the print exposure checklists was between .75 and .89,
which indicates that 75%–89% of the variance is due to the true
score and 11%–25% is due to error of measurement. The reliabili-
ties of reading measures were even higher, with alpha reliabilities
centering around .90. Thus, we do not believe that differential
reliabilities were problematic.
Future studies should test the possibility of spiral causality in the
reading development of children who are followed longitudinally
from infancy through to school age or even adulthood. It would be
particularly interesting to identify processes that turn sharing
books in infancy into choosing to read as a leisure activity in
adolescence and adulthood. For instance, we expect that children’s
attitudes, beliefs, or motivation toward reading are likely to influ-
ence and depend on current reading skills as well as previous
reading experiences, but this has been examined only in a handful
of studies so far (e.g., Baker et al., 1997; DeBaryshe, 1995;
Guthrie & Wigfield, 1999; Katzir, Lesaux, & Kim, 2009; Kush et
al., 2005; Schutte & Malouff, 2007; Shapiro & Whitney, 1997).
Knowing why some children choose to read whereas others do not
feel attracted to books might prove useful for the development of
successful intervention programs that stimulate skilled as well as
less skilled readers of all ages to spend (more of) their leisure time
on reading narrative texts.
There is a general belief in society that frequent exposure to
print has a long-lasting impact on academic success, as if practic-
ing reading is the miracle drug for the prevention and treatment of
reading problems (for reviews, see Dickinson & McCabe, 2001;
Phillips, Norris, & Anderson, 2008). This comprehensive meta-
analysis of print exposure provides some scientific support for this
belief. Our findings are consistent with the theory that reading
development starts before formal instruction, with book sharing as
one of the facets of a stimulating home literacy environment.
Books provide a meaningful context for learning to read, not only
as a way of stimulating reading comprehension but also as a means
of developing technical reading skills even in early childhood. In
preconventional readers we found that print exposure was associ-
ated moderately with oral language and basic knowledge about
reading. Reading books remained important for children in school
who were conventional readers. The meta-analyses suggest that
reading routines, which are part of the child’s leisure time activi-
ties, offer substantial advantages for oral language growth. Inter-
estingly, independent reading of books also enables readers to
store specific word form knowledge and become better spellers.
Finally, college and university students who read for pleasure may
also be more successful academically.
We do not claim that reading more in leisure time is sufficient
to turn children into better readers and brighter students in a direct
way. Our findings suggest that the relation between print exposure
and reading components is reciprocal, as the intensity of print
exposure also depends on students’ reading proficiency. Print
exposure becomes more important for reading components with
growing age, in particular for oral language and word recognition.
Apparently, children who have developed a reading routine will
acquire increasingly more word meanings and word forms from
books, which further facilitates their reading development and
their willingness to read for pleasure. Such a spiral also implies
that readers who lag behind in comprehension or technical reading
and spelling skills are especially at risk of developing serious
reading problems because they are less inclined to read during
leisure time (Stanovich, 1986). With less print exposure, low-
ability readers are unlikely to improve their reading and spelling
skills to the same extent as their peers who do choose to read.
Thus, the reading gap widens, and the Matthew effect becomes
ever more forceful. Preventing such a downward spiral for poor
readers may be among the major challenges of contemporary
reading research. We must find ways to motivate these students
and their parents to read more as a leisure time activity. In this
respect one of our most promising findings is that poor readers’
basic reading skills profit most from reading books in their leisure
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Received October 23, 2009
Revision received September 20, 2010
Accepted September 20, 2010
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... Picture books, which are described as books in which the text and graphics work together to convey a story, are ubiquitous tools that are used to enrich curricula across China and the United States [12]. It is especially advantageous in supporting student acquisition of literacy [13][14][15] and cognitive skills [16], both of which reliably predict future academic performance. Additionally, picture books cultivate social qualities such as friendship, cooperation, accountability, and empathy as well as communication skills such as active listening and awareness of others [16,17]. ...
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Cultural diversity is endorsed by many educators as a major teaching concept due to its significance for the achievement of social equity in education. Recently, the use of picture books to promote principles related to cultural diversity has become a rising trend in early childhood settings. This study examined Chinese preschool teachers’ attitudes toward using picture books to teach cultural-diversity-related topics and their reported practices. Seven preschool teachers from four institutions located in Shanghai, China were surveyed and semiinterviewed. The study identified three key findings: (1) teachers interpreted cultural diversity in a restricted way and were usually unaware of themselves teaching the concept of cultural diversity; (2) teachers adopted a multifaceted approach of selecting picture books used for teaching cultural diversity and conceived illustrations as the most important book selection criteria; and (3) teachers often supplemented picture book sharing with first-hand experiences. The study results have important implications for preschool teachers, curriculum designers, and organizations that provide training for preservice and in-service early childhood educators. The analysis results show that the proposed system has a great and positive impact on the early childhood education of students and is helpful for the teachers to teach cultural diversity-related topics to their students in an easy and effective way.
... Indeed, Deckner et al., (2006) and Malin et al., (2014) suggest that when preschool children are interested in reading it supports their vocabulary and expressive language development. However, others (e.g., Blewitt et al., 2009;Mol & Bus, 2011), indicate that it is the frequency of reading in the home literacy environment that enhances vocabulary and comprehension development. ...
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Although it is well established that reading with young children supports early language and literacy development, few studies have focused on the importance of parental beliefs about reading with infants. The current study, which sheds light on parental beliefs had three main aims. The first was to examine practices of shared reading in infancy (birth to 1 year old), while the second, sought to examine parents’ views on benefits of and potential barriers to reading with infants. The third aim was to explore how parents’ beliefs about reading, and their own enjoyment of reading, may influence the early home literacy environment they create for their infants. Drawing upon a mixed methods approach, comprising surveys and interviews with parents of infants ( n = 31), this paper highlights the importance of parents’ own enjoyment of reading. The findings, which are considered from a bioecological perspective, indicate that parents’ enjoyment of reading was significantly and positively associated with the number of children’s books in their home, and the frequency of reading with their infant, as well as their hope for their child’s future enjoyment of reading. Parents noted that one of the main benefits of reading with their infants related to socio-emotional development and the one-to-one time, rather than the language and literacy benefits, which constitute the focus of much research in this area. The findings further point to an intergenerational transfer of a love of reading.
... The amount of time children spend reading with parents is important for language and literacy outcomes Mol & Bus, 2011) and may mediate the relationship between motivation and literacy outcomes (Becker et al., 2010). Frequency may also be connected to literacy interest. ...
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Purpose Quantity and quality of early at-home reading shape literacy outcomes. At-home reading frequency is a common outcome measure in interventions. This single measure may not fully capture the quality of early reading interactions, such as parent and child references to print, an important contributor to language and literacy outcomes. This study aims to evaluate if and how reported reading frequency and duration are associated with parent and child print referencing, controlling for perceived parenting self-efficacy, developmental knowledge, and child sex. Method This study is a secondary analysis of baseline data from a treatment study with parents ( N = 30) and children (1;1–2;3 [years;months]) from underresourced households. Parents reported weekly reading episode frequency and duration (in minutes). We coded parent–child book-sharing interactions to quantify use of print references. Results Negative binomial regression modeling suggested that parents who reported more weekly reading episodes tended to use more print references during interactions. However, reported reading time in minutes was not significantly associated with parents' print referencing. Parents' print references were also associated with perceived self-efficacy, developmental knowledge, and child sex. In our sample, parents used more print references with male children. Neither reading frequency nor reading time was associated with increased print referencing from children. Conclusions Duration of reading did not positively predict children's use of print references. However, weekly reading frequency positively predicted parents' use of print references. Parent perceived self-efficacy and knowledge may predict early interaction quality similarly to quantity of reading. Supplemental Material
... This sensitivity to orthographic detail is surely developed through experience with print. The amount of print exposure (time spent reading for leisure) a child experiences seems to play a crucial role in learning to read (Mol & Bus, 2011). Children with reading difficulties often exhibit a Matthew effect, demonstrating more depressed vocabularies due to less exposure to reading materials (Aguiar & Brady, 1991;Cunningham & Stanovich, 1997;Stanovich, 1986). ...
The aim of this study was to examine how Arabic-speaking children construct orthographic representations and to identify cognitive/linguistic abilities that may facilitate novel word learning. The research involved first examining factors associated with single word reading and spelling accuracy in Arabic-speaking monolingual children and Arabic-English bilingual children, in order to separate universal from script-dependent predictors. Because Arabic is diglossic (i.e., two varieties of the language, one spoken, and one for literary purposes), it was considered important to include print exposure as a measure in investigating factors associated with single word reading and spelling. Thus, Study 1 involved the development of Title Recognition Tests (TRT) in Arabic and in English. Participants were children from grades three to five; 86 students participated in the development of the lists in Study 1a, and 76 in the development of the revised lists in Study 1b. Both lists were reliable and were used in the subsequent studies. Study 2 involved examining predictors of single word reading and spelling (receptive vocabulary, phonological processing, RAN, TRT, and orthographic matching) in 86 third- to fifth-grade bilingual children and 116 third-grade monolingual children. For the bilinguals, PA emerged as the strongest predictor of reading and spelling in Arabic. In English, verbal STM and orthographic matching were predictors for the younger bilinguals. PA was the strongest predictor of reading and spelling for the monolinguals. In Study 3, novel word learning in Arabic was examined using a paired-associate learning task, orthography present or absent and varying visual complexity (ligature and diacritics). The 116 monolingual children from Study 2 participated. Child-related predictors of novel word learning were examined. Results revealed that presence of orthography facilitated learning. There was evidence that consonant diacritics are a source of difficulty, but diglossic phonemes may also be responsible for reading difficulties documented in Arabic.
Research Findings: In this study, we examined the short- and long-term effects of Reading Express, a home-