Here’s one way to get parents and toddlers on the same page.
People who regularly read with their children say that the little ones are less likely to be hyperactive and disruptive, according to a new study from Rutgers University. What’s more, the moms in this study revealed that more frequent story time sessions also made them better parents.
Researchers studied 2,165 mother-child pairs from 20 large U.S. cities, and asked the women how often they read to their kids at one and at three years old. The mothers were then interviewed again two years later (when kids were three and five), when they were asked about how often they had to engage in harsh, physically aggressive discipline (such as spanking, hitting, slapping, shaking or pinching) and/or psychologically aggressive discipline (shouting, threatening a spanking, swearing, calling the child “dumb” or threatening to send them away), as well as how their children behaved. (The study also controlled for factors such as parental depression and financial hardship, which can cause or exacerbate negative behaviors in both mother and child.)
And the families who read together regularly (at least four times a week) were associated with less harsh parenting two years later. This could be in part because the moms who engaged in regular read-together time also reported fewer hyperactive and disruptive behaviors from their kids. But the close physical contact and bonding that forms from poring over the pages of a picture book together has also been shown to improve the quality of parent-child relationships, the authors noted, which can also reduce parental stress.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents read regularly to their children to strengthen the parent-child bond, and to also stimulate their brain development. The AAP suggests starting this story time as early as infancy, and continuing it through kindergarten at least.
How often is “regularly,” though? The National Education Association has found that kids who were read to three or four times a week were more likely to count to 20 or higher than kids who were not read to as much (60% vs. 44%). They were also more able to write their own names (54% vs. 40%). The Rutgers study authors recommended reading a book together every day.
After all, reading with children in their infancy and preschool years has been associated with better language skills (such as a more advanced vocabulary) once they go to school, and an increased interest in reading — which, in turn, makes them more likely to reach higher education and attain better economic stability. Illiterate adults, on the other hand, earn 30% to 42% less than their literate counterparts.
Parents should consider sitting down with a traditional print book versus huddling together over an e-book, however, as a recent study found that kids and parents talk and interact less when they’re swiping through a story on a phone or tablet compared to when they turn actual pages bound into a book. And the parents in the study also admitted that they were more likely to give negative asides to their kids while reading e-books, such as telling them “don’t push that button,” instead of discussing the actual story.
“For parents, the simple routine of reading with your child on a daily basis provides not just academic but emotional benefits that can help bolster the child’s success in school and beyond,” said lead researcher Manuel Jimenez, an assistant professor at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School’s department of pediatrics, in a statement. “Our findings can be applied to programs that help parents and caregivers in underserved areas to develop positive parenting skills.”
Considering children’s print book sales were up about 3% in 2018 over the year before, according to the Association of American Publishers, and IBISWorld expects the $2.3 billion children’s book market to grow 0.9% each year through 2022, however, it looks like plenty of parents have been buying into all of these positive claims.