People who regularly read with their toddlers are less likely to engage in harsh parenting, while their children are less likely to be hyperactive or disruptive, according to a new study.
Previous studies have shown that shared reading prepares children for school by building language, literacy, and emotional skills, but researchers at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School say their study may be the first to focus on how shared reading affects parenting.
Published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, the study shows that shared reading leads to additional benefits, including a stronger parent-child bond and less hyperactivity and attention problems in children.
“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, and an attending developmental behavioral pediatrician at Children’s Specialized Hospital. “Our findings can be applied to programs that help parents and caregivers in underserved areas to develop positive parenting skills.”
For the study, researchers reviewed data on 2,165 mother-child pairs from 20 large U.S. cities. The women were asked how often they read to their children at ages 1 or 3. The mothers were re-interviewed two years later about how often they engaged in physically and/or psychologically aggressive discipline and about their children’s behavior.
The study controlled for factors such as parental depression and financial hardship that can contribute to harsh parenting and children’s disruptive behavior, the researchers reported.
The study’s findings showed that frequent shared reading at age 1 was associated with less harsh parenting at age 3, and frequent shared reading at age 3 was associated with less harsh parenting at age 5.
Mothers who read frequently with their children also reported fewer disruptive behaviors from their children, which may partially explain the reduction in harsh parenting behaviors, the researchers said.