To review the extensive research on literacy development in young children, visit the website of the National Association for the Education of Young Children at naeyc.org. Below are summaries of two studies that highlight the role of books in enriching vocabulary and the importance of having a home library in children’s subsequent school success.
Picture Books Enrich The Vocabularies Of Children. Encouraging parents and caregivers to talk to their babies more often is certainly important, but how does reading picture books expand upon the vocabularies of caregivers. A large replication study at the University of California, Santa Cruz, repeated a classic study showing that print has a richer vocabulary than speech. They found that the variety of words in picture books was more extensive than that of parents talking to their children. Picture books were three times as likely as child-directed speech to use a word that isn’t among the most common English words; this result was found regardless of parents’ background. Even the language quality of two adults talking to each other fell below that of picture books. Given the fact that word mastery in adulthood is correlated with early acquisition of words, a potentially powerful leveler of family income and social background may be as simple as engaging in picture-book reading with babies. (Adapted from Dom Massaro, University of California at Santa Cruz, Letter to the Editor, The New Yorker, Feb. 2, 2015.)
Importance of Children’s Home Libraries.
UNICEF’s ongoing study of inequality in children’s learning and development found that regardless of how many books a family already has, each addition to the home library helps children get a little farther in school. Children growing up in homes with many books get 3 years more schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation, or income. The importance of having books in the home is the greatest where books are rare. It is in these homes that each additional book matters most. The findings hold equally in rich nations and in poor. Data is from representative national samples in 27 nations, with over 70,000 cases. (Evans et al., Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, Vol. 28, Issue 2, June 2010.)