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Study shows benefits of parents reading to, playing with children :

April 9, 2018

Low-income children whose parents read to them and played with them had less risk of being hyperactive when they started school, according to a new study.

Children living in poverty are more likely to have difficulty with social-emotional development, but these challenges can be tempered with positive parenting strategies, according to the study. Researchers previously found the Video Interaction Project (VIP), a primary care intervention, helped this development for children 3 years and under.

To see if those benefits would be sustained at 4.5 years and whether 3- to 5-year-old children from low-income families also would benefit, they conducted another randomized, controlled trial, which is detailed in the article “Reading Aloud, Play and Social-Emotional Development” (Mendelsohn AL, et al. Pediatrics. April 9, 2018,

During the program, which builds on Reach Out and Read, a facilitator video recorded parents and their children reading and playing together during 15 30-minute sessions for infants and toddlers and nine 30- to 45-minute sessions for preschool age children. During the sessions, which took place during pediatric visits, the facilitator reviewed videos with the parents to identify and reinforce positive interactions and gave them pamphlets with parenting tips. A control group received standard care, and all received Reach Out and Read.

The study found that previously reported reductions in attention problems, hyperactivity and externalizing problems in toddlers were sustained 1.5 years after completing VIP. These children had a relative risk reduction of 69% for “clinically significant” hyperactivity.

The preschoolers who participated in VIP experienced early reductions in aggression and externalizing problems and marginal reductions in hyperactivity.

Researchers said the results show primary care programs that promote positive parenting can lead to improvements in children’s social-emotional development and behavior.

“With the effect sizes, it is suggested that such programs can result in clinically important differences on long-term educational outcomes, given the central role of behavior for child learning,” authors wrote.

They also noted children participating in VIP in primary care could receive the benefits of a home visiting program at a fraction of the cost.

“With our findings, we support the use of pediatric primary care to promote reading aloud and play from birth to 5 years, and the potential for such programs to enhance social-emotional development,” they wrote.

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