Sunday, July 15, 2007

Reading to kids: don't do it for the test scores

I'd always assumed that the claim that reading to young children improved their academic performance was mostly wishful thinking, but I hadn't realized where the belief came from ...
Freakonomics Blog � The Benefits of Reading to Children, Tested With a Data Pool of One

... Children from low-income households average just 25 hours of shared reading time with their parents before starting school, compared with 1,000 to 1,700 hours for their counterparts from middle-income homes.

These oft-repeated numbers originate in a 1990 book by Marilyn Jager Adams titled, “Beginning to Read: Thinking And Learning About Print.” Ms. Adams got the 25-hours estimate from a study of 24 children in 22 low-income families. For the middle-income figures, she extrapolated from the experience of a single child: her then-4-year-old son, John …
This is a bit like the old saw about "using only 15% of your brain" and other urban myths. This one was a useful myth, it meant that poor test scores could be blamed on parents who, obviously, didn't read to their children enough (perhaps because they were struggling to keep the roof in place) [1].

It's fun reading to kids, though of our 3 we've had 2 that sat still for it and one who'd have needed four point restraints. Do it because it's fun, but don't get bent out of shape about it. There's no evidence, yet, that reading to children will make a significant contribution to their academic performance.

[1] Of course even if there was a causal relationship between reading to children and test scores that would be fallacious reasoning, but we're talking about hairless apes here!

No comments: