HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Reading to your newborn baby could help advance their language skills, researchers from Marshall University reveal. Their study finds language scores among infants improve when parents read them stories every day before their first birthday. The study builds on previous early language development research and cements the importance of reading at a young age.
“Early, consistent reading demonstrates improved language scores as early as 9 months of age. Setting expectations of minimal daily reading impacted daily reading compliance early in life,” the researchers write in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.
In the current study, caregivers received 20 children’s books intended to help with early development and interaction with print media. The first group of caregivers received the books with no additional instructions. Families in the second group agreed to read at least one book a day. The last group of caregivers enrolled when their child was 34 weeks-old. They also committed to reading one book a day and to watching an infant brain development video. All parents or guardians gave consent to test their infant with an expressive and receptive language test during wellness checkups every two weeks.
“One book each day is an easy goal for new families to try. To see that there is a measurable improvement in speaking and understanding before one year old is very exciting,” says corresponding author Adam Franks, MD, a professor of family and community health at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University, in a media release.
Infants whose parents read them seven books a week (one per day) showed higher language scores at nine months-old in comparison to infants whose parents read less than seven books per week. The gap in language scores widened considerably at 12 months. Giving instructions to caregivers to read daily encouraged them to read more books weekly.
“While our team is excited about our findings, the real winners are the participating children and families in this area that have been benefited from the bonding experience of experiencing this co-reading through their participation in the project,” says Dr. Franks.
The authors plan to expand the findings in the current study to include infants facing unique challenges. For example, they are looking to see how early reading benefits infants of mothers with opioid use disorder who are experiencing withdrawal.