Simple Method for Reading to Preschoolers Helps Literacy Development

Reposted from: National Public Radio

For years, the consensus in early childhood education has been that reading aloud is the most important thing you can do for your child’s academic success. And, new research is proving that how you read to your child can also have a major impact on learning.

A story from National Public Radio explores how bringing preschoolers’ attention to the print – not just the pictures – while reading books can have positive impacts on their literacy development. Here’s a short summary:

For the past 15 years, education researchers such as Anita McGinty of the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education have studied what behaviors help children learn to read. Their research included eye-tracking studies to observe children’s habits. They found that, when you simply read a book to kids, they tend to ignore the print on the page. “More than 90 percent of the time the children are focusing on the pictures, or they are looking up at the parent,” says Shayne Piasta, a professor at Ohio State University. In other words, they’re not paying attention to the printed letters.

So how do we shift a child’s focus from pictures to text? The answer is surprisingly simple! McGinty, Piasta, and researcher Laura Justice conducted a study focusing on modest changes to the way preschool teachers read to disadvantaged children. Two groups of teachers received 30 weeks worth of books to be read four times a week. One group read the books normally. The other group was instructed to ask questions that would require the child to pay attention to the print in the book. Children read to by the second group of teachers had better literacy outcomes by the first grade than those in the first group.

It’s important to keep in mind that no single intervention by itself will permanently sustain positive results. Children need continued intervention over time, especially if they come from impoverished families and weak schools. However, we believe this simple change to the way you read to your child can increase his or her success down the road.