For Parents

For Parents

Reading Aloud and Child Development: Supporting Children of All Backgrounds

Examining the impact of training low-income Brazilian families on shared-book reading


Steps of Child Development

A child’s early learning and skill development lays the foundation for their success later on in life in areas such as education, overall health, and productivity. Many children in low-income families do not meet their developmental milestones due to factors in their environment related to poverty. Developmental milestones are skills most children can do by a certain age. If a child is not showing certain skills within a typical age range, they are considered to not be meeting their developmental “steps” at the same rate as other children.


What Can We Do to Help Children from Low-Income Families?

Previous studies have shown that reading aloud can be a helpful strategy to support children’s development in low-income families. Programs in the United States advocating for reading aloud have been shown to improve parent-child interactions among families of all backgrounds.  Book lending programs have also been shown to increase parental reading aloud. Not many studies have looked at parent programs involving parent-child interaction training which is what Adriana Weisleder and her colleagues examined in the current study.


The Study

This study looked at the impact of parents from low-income families reading books aloud to their children. Specifically, the researchers looked into how reading aloud effects child development and the parent-child relationship. They compared two groups of children and their parents. In the first group, the parents participated in a parenting program and received child care. The second group, the control group, only received child care. This two group set-up allowed the researchers to examine the results of only the parenting program.


What was Involved in the Parenting Program?

The parenting program in this study included monthly, 1-hour workshops over the course of 8 months. In the workshops, parents were taught strategies for reading aloud, and they got a chance to practice with their children. Afterward they reflected on what they liked and found difficult about reading aloud and got feedback on their practice. The books used in the workshops were provided from a library that allowed the families to take the books home and exchange them for new ones throughout the study.

At the beginning and end of the study, the researchers interviewed each parent and observed each parent and child pair sharing a children’s book. In the observations they looked at time spent reading aloud and reading quality. They also asked parents to fill out surveys about their child’s social and emotional skills, child’s behavior, and parent’s use of physical punishment. In addition, the researchers tested the children’s vocabulary and IQ.


What Did the Study Find?

Parents who received the parenting program interacted more with their children than those who didn’t go through the program (the control group). In observations, the researchers found parents in the program read more to their children and the time spent interacting while reading was of higher quality than parents in the control group.

The children of the parents in the parenting program had higher IQ scores. They also understood more words, as compared to the children in the control group. In addition, children whose parents were in the program had better working memory. Working memory is the ability to hold on to information and process it. It plays an important role in language, communication, and learning.


Take-away: A Weekly Trip to the Library Can Have Many Benefits

This study adds more support to previous research that reading books aloud to your child supports their learning and growth and improves parent-child interactions. Children benefited significantly in the areas of IQ, understanding words spoken to them, and working memory. And parents had higher quality interactions when sharing books with their child.

The study also shows that parents can be trained in reading aloud strategies. It may be helpful to talk to other parents about things you enjoy and find challenging about reading with your child.  Receiving feedback from other parents, as well as trained professionals, can help enhance the experience for both you and your child.



Weisleder, A., Mazzuchelli, D., Lopez, A., Neto, W., Cates, C., Gonclaves, H., Fonseca, R., Oliveira, J., & Mendelson, A. (2018). Reading aloud and child development: A cluster-randomized trial in Brazil. Pediatrics, 26(1). doi:10.1542/peds.2017-0723