There are many established benefits when parents/caregivers and children read together (also known as “shared reading”) frequently. For the child, these include but are not limited to improved attachment, early speech and language development, school readiness, and school success. This may be at least partly due to more positive parenting and responsiveness towards the child. Are there also positive effects on a child’s social and emotional development?
Dr. Keith Martin and colleagues at Johns Hopkins and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital have published an article entitled, “Shared Reading and Risk of Social-Emotional Problems,” which is being early released in Pediatrics (10.1542/peds.2020-034876), which explores this very question.
The authors analyzed data from well child visits of nearly 5,700 young children whose parents had reported on the frequency of shared reading at home and who subsequently completed the Ages and Stages: Social Emotional Questionnaire (ASQ:SE) when the child was 30-66 months old. All children were seen at an urban academic pediatric primary center, and 80% of children had public insurance.
Maybe not surprisingly, children whose parents/caregivers reported shared reading most (5-7) days of the week were less likely (14%) to have ASQ:SE scores suggestive of social-emotional problems, compared with 17% for those who reported some (2-4 days/week) and 23% for those who reported rare (0-1 days/week) shared reading.
The study also discusses the impact of shared reading for families with food and/or housing insecurity and in which there is caregiver depression, all of which you can explore when you read the entire article.
Although more studies need to be done to see if these results are generalizable to other populations, these results are promising, and we can add improved social and emotional child health to the growing list of benefits to shared reading.