14 SES 09 A, Shared Reading Practices Between Families and Children in School
We know that that there are benefits for young children when they are read to regularly by their parents/ carers. Children who are read to regularly tend to learn language faster, enter school with a larger vocabulary, and become more successful readers in school (Bus et al., 1995; Mol et al., 2008). While there is still some uncertainty about the precise ways in which book sharing promotes language development in young children, it has been suggested that books facilitate a particular kind of encounter because speech during book-reading is more complex than during caretaking or play (Snow, 1994). Moreover research also indicates that the act of sharing a book promotes a close interaction between parent and child that can in itself facilitate learning. For example a study with mothers and their seven month-old babies noted that interactions around books with young children were social rituals providing opportunities for social interaction and physical proximity (Hardman and Jones, 1999). Similarly Bus et al. (1997) considered the relationship between parent-child attachment and the quantity and quality of book-reading and concluded that high quality book-reading was associated with secure attachment. Together these studies suggest that young children benefit greatly from being read to by their parents, however many children are not read to in their homes. This paper presents research designed to tackle this issue.
Further study suggests that children living in disadvantage are less likely to be read to than children growing up in advantaged homes. For example we know that highly educated parents are significantly more likely to read with their children (Duursma et al., 2011) and to expose them to books on a daily basis (Payne et al., 1994). Moreover, using 2,000 responses from a nationally representative survey of parents with young children, Britto et al. (2002) reported a modest association between parental educational attainment and frequency of parent-child book-reading. Family income has also been associated with shared reading practices, with Britto et al. (2002) also reporting that parents earning more than $60,000 were nearly twice as likely to read to their child as parents in lower income strata.
This indicates a need to understand why parents do and, importantly, do not read with their children, so that targeted intervention strategies are effective, however this is not a straightforward issue. There is a substantial body of literature showing that factors such as culture (Brooker, 2002; Heath 1983) and individual familial networks (Feiler, 2005) have a great impact on how literacy is conceptualised and utilised in homes, thus challenging normative discourses on literacy learning and deficit models of families. This is supported by the work of Cline and Edwards (2013) who analysed shared book reading activity among low-income Spanish-speaking and English-speaking families. Findings revealed that different styles and qualities of book reading were beneficial for children who spoke a particular language, thus underlining the need to account for cultural variation when researching reading in families.
The research presented here focuses on families living in low-income neighbourhoods, using in-depth interviews to explore their experiences. It forms part of a collaborative ESRC-funded project to promote language development through shared reading. This specific study is designed to understand how parents feel about sharing books with their three or four-year-old children, and any difficulties they may encounter in doing this. It seeks to challenge the ‘deficit model’ of ‘hard-to-reach’ families by highlighting the many ways in which parents encourage early literacy development, the variety of their beliefs about reading with young children, and the different barriers that parents perceive to shared reading at home.
BRITTO, P. R., FULIGNI, A. S. & BROOKS-GUNN, J. (2002) Reading, Rhymes and Routines: American parents and their young children. IN HALFON, N., KATHRYN TAAFFE MCLEARN, & MARK A. SCHUSTER, E. (Eds.) Child Rearing in America. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. BROOKER, L. (2002) Starting School: Young children learning cultures, Buckingham, Open University Press. BUS, A. G., VAN IJZENDOORN, M. & PELLEGRINI, A. D. (1995) Joint Book Reading Makes for Success in Learning to Read: A meta-analysis on intergenerational transmission of literacy. Review Of Educational Research, 65, 1-21. CLINE, K. & EDWARDS, C. P. (2013) The Instructional and Emotional Quality of Parent-Child Book Reading and Early Head Start Children's Learning Outcomes. Early Educ. Dev., 24, 1214-1231. DUURSMA, E. & PAN, B. A. (2011) Who's reading to children in low- income families? The influence of paternal, maternal and child characteristics. Early Child Development and Care, 181, 1163-1180. FEILER, A. (2005) Linking Home and School Literacy in an Inner City Reception Class. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 5, 131-149. MOL, S., BUS, A. G., DE JONG, M. & SMEETS, D. (2008) Added value of dialogic parent-child book readings: A meta-analysis. Early Educ. Dev., 19, 7-26.
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