More research about the importance of reading

5 Jun

Moi discussed the importance of reading in Reading is a key component of learning:

The goal of parents, teachers, students, and society should be that all children succeed in obtaining a good basic education. In order to achieve this goal, children must come to school ready to learn. See, Illiteracy in America

The University of Michigan Health Center explains why reading is important in the article, Reading, Literacy and Your Child:

What is literacy?

Literacy means being able to read and write.

Why is reading important?

A child’s reading skills are important to their success in school and work. In addition, reading can be a fun and imaginative activity for children, which opens doors to all kinds of new worlds for them.  Reading and writing are important ways we use language to communicate.

How do reading and language skills develop?

For an answer to this question, check out the following link:

Research has identified five early reading skills that are all essential.  They are [1]:

  • Phonemic awareness—Being able to hear, identify, and play with individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words.

  • Phonics—Being able to connect the letters of written language with the sounds of spoken language.

  • Vocabulary—The words kids need to know to communicate effectively.

  • Reading comprehension—Being able to understand and get meaning from what has been read.

  • Fluency (oral reading)—Being able to read text accurately and quickly.

How can we make reading part of our family’s lifestyle?
Parents play a critical role in helping their children develop not only the ability to read, but also an enjoyment of reading.

  • Turn off the tube.  Start by limiting your family’s television viewing time. 

  • Teach by example.  If you have books, newspapers and magazines around your house, and your child sees you reading, then your child will learn that you value reading.  You can’t over-estimate the value of modeling. 

  • Read together.  Reading with your child is a great activity.  It not only teaches your child that reading is important to you, but it also offers a chance to talk about the book, and often other issues will come up.  Books can really open the lines of communication between parent and child. 

  • Hit the library.  Try finding library books about current issues or interests in your family’s or child’s life, and then reading them together.  For example, read a book about going to the dentist prior to your child’s next dental exam, or get some books about seashore life after a trip to the coast.  If your child is obsessed with dragons, ask your librarian to recommend a good dragon novel for your child.

There are many ways to include reading in your child’s life, starting in babyhood, and continuing through the teen years.  Focus on literacy activities that your child enjoys, so that reading is a treat, not a chore.

Reading skills are particularly important in academic success because of “Common Core Standards Initiative.” The “Common Core State Standards Initiative” is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

Alex Spigel reports in the NPR story, Small Change In Reading To Preschoolers Can Help Disadvantaged Kids Catch Up:

But about 15 years ago, says McGinty, researchers like her started to look more closely at reading, trying to unpack exactly which behaviors helped children learn to read. In the process, she says, they discovered something surprising about the simple act of sitting down and reading a story through with a child. “It mattered a lot less than we thought it did,” she says.

It’s not that reading didn’t help a child to learn. It helped to build a child’s vocabulary, for example. But it didn’t necessarily improve a child’s ability to read, per se.

To figure out why, researchers embarked on a new round of studies — specifically, eye-tracking studies.

“What they would do is that they would put a child on their parent’s lap, and then they would use some special equipment that allows them to pinpoint exactly where the children are looking at any given moment in time,” says Shayne Piasta, a professor at Ohio State University.

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, she says.

Here, went the theory, was the answer: Learning to read is an incremental process; you become familiar with letters, then words; the practice of reading from left to right; and eventually you put all that together and begin to read. But if a child’s attention isn’t drawn to the printed word, then reading to a child won’t necessarily make them more familiar with what it means to read.

And so new questions emerged. How could teachers change what children saw and thought about when a book was being read? And how much difference would that make? If disadvantaged children who often have reading troubles were made to think more about print at a very young age, would they become better readers later on?

Reading Changes Made A Difference To Children

To answer these questions, McGinty, along with Piasta and a researcher named Laura Justice, designed a research study to look at the effects of modest changes in the way preschool teachers read to children. McGinty and her colleagues decided to target disadvantaged preschoolers because they frequently end up with reading issues.

For the study, they gave two groups of preschool teachers books for an entire school year — 30 weeks’ worth of books. One group was told to read the books normally; the other was given weekly cards with specific questions the teacher could ask — really just small phrases — that might momentarily draw a child’s attention to the print on the page.

The teachers were told to read their books four times a week, and to point out the print in this way between four and eight times, so that together the small phrases hardly added extra time to their reading sessions — maybe 90 seconds per book.

It is hard to imagine that such a small adjustment would make any difference. It was a series of moments, questions and gestures. How much could that do?

So far, the kids have been followed for two years. They are now in first grade, and according to the most recent findings, which were published in the journal Child Development, even these small changes make a measurable difference.

“Children who focused their attention on print … had better literacy outcomes than those who did not,” says Piasta. “It was very clear.”

Understanding The Details Of Learning

But how much should we trust this? Positive results from interventions like this frequently are lost over time, overwhelmed by the reality of bad schools and poor support at home. This was, after all, such a modest adjustment.

The question is almost a philosophical one: How big a difference can small changes make?

The fact is, this study is part of a broader effort that’s been going on in education research for the past 20 or so years. Education researchers are attempting to break down in minute ways how teachers (and parents) should interact on a moment-to-moment basis with children in order to promote their learning.

It’s one focus of the field right now, and there have been some encouraging findings. But it’s still not clear whether interventions like this have real staying power.

“Findings like this are at a very high risk of fading out,” says Scott McConnell, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota. “But let’s talk about why they might fade out. There’s no reason to believe that an intervention like this, provided to 4-year-olds, is all these kids will ever need. They are going to need sustained intervention that takes advantage of the growth that they’ve achieved here.”

Without other programs, gains are easy to lose, he says. He also points out that it’s hard to implement preschool programs like this broadly, because at the preschool level there’s wide variety in teachers’ skills.


Increasing Young Children’s Contact with Print During Shared Reading: Longitudinal Effects on Literacy Achievement”

Handy Definitions

See the full glossary

What is the study about?

The study examined the impact of Project STAR (Sit Together and Read) on literacy skills of preschool students. Project STAR is a program in which teachers read books aloud to their students and use instructional techniques designed to encourage children to pay attention to print within storybooks. Eighty-five preschool classrooms were randomly assigned to one of three study groups: a high-dose intervention group, in which preschoolers experienced 120 reading sessions over 30 weeks; a low-dose intervention group, in which preschoolers experienced 60 reading sessions over 30 weeks; or a comparison group, in which preschool teachers read the same books used in the high-dose intervention group to their students, but did not use Project STAR techniques. Literacy skills of students in all three groups were measured one and two years after the intervention.

What did the study report?

The study reported that students in the high-dose intervention group had significantly higher early literacy skills (reading, spelling, and comprehension) than those in the comparison group on both the one- and two-year post-intervention assessments. Relative to the comparison group, students in the low-dose intervention group demonstrated significant improvements on only the spelling outcome of the two-year post-intervention assessment.

How does the WWC rate this study?

The study is a randomized controlled trial that did not provide sufficient information to determine attrition or baseline equivalence of the analytic samples. A more thorough review (forthcoming) will determine whether this study may meet WWC evidence standards with or without reservations.


Piasta, S. B., Justice, L. M., McGinty, A. S., & Kaderavek, J. N. (2012). Increasing young children’s contact with print during shared reading: Longitudinal effects on literacy achievement. Child Development, 83(3), 810–820. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01754.x

Education is a partnership between the student, parent(s) or guardian(s), the teacher(s), and the school. All parts of the partnership must be active and involved. Parents are an important part because they enforce lessons learned at school by reading to their children and taking their children for regular library time.


The slow reading movement

The importance of the skill of handwriting in the school curriculum


US Department Of Education Helping Series which are a number of pamphlets to help parents and caregivers

How Parents Can Help Their Child Prepare for School Assignments

The ABCs of Ready to Learn

Getting Young Children Ready to Learn

Ebony Magazine’s How to Prepare Your Child for Success

General Tips for Preparing for Kindergarten

Louise Hajjar Diamond in an article for the American School Counselor Association writes about preparing a child for middle school

Getting Your Child Ready to Learn

Classroom Strategies to Get Boys Reading

Me Read? A Practical Guide to Improving Boys Literacy Skills

Understanding Gender Differences: Strategies To Support Girls and Boys

Helping Underachieving Boys Read Well and Often

Boys and Reading Strategies for Success

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

2 Responses to “More research about the importance of reading”


  1. Is ‘texting’ destroying literacy skills « drwilda - July 30, 2012

    […] More research about the importance of reading […]

  2. Why libraries in K-12 schools are important « drwilda - December 26, 2012

    […] More research about the importance of reading     […]

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