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Reading aloud at home may grow resilience for at-risk kids, study finds

Experts say reading can help strengthen connections and development

Parent reading to child
Photo (c) The Good Brigade - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Australia explored how reading out loud to kids can be beneficial long-term. According to the findings, at-risk kids are more likely to become resilient, strengthen their deep connections, and have improved overall development when their parents read aloud to them at home. 

“Reading out loud can create many positive outcomes for children,” said researcher Leonie Segal. “As a shared experience between parent and child, it encourages connection, while also directly contributing to child development through exposure to words and stories. 

“Children in families that are struggling to create a nurturing environment will especially benefit from reading with a parent or carer, improving their resilience, and keeping them developmentally more on track, despite their adversity exposure.” 

Promoting better development and resilience in kids

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from over 65,000 kids who completed the Early Australian Development Census (EADC). The team focused on children between the ages of five and six.

The study clearly showed a link between reading out loud to children and improvements in resilience. Overall, more than 3,400 kids were being mistreated at home. Long-term, these circumstances can impact kids’ academic success; however, the researchers learned that when parents focused on reading to their kids at home, they were more likely to be more resilient and meet key developmental goals. 

“A good start to school is predictive of later outcomes, so it’s vital that we not only identify those at risk early on, but also find ways to support children’s emotional, social, and physical development, before they start school,” Segal said. 

Boys may struggle more than girls

The researchers also found that boys who were mistreated at home were more likely than girls to struggle academically. The team hopes these findings lead to changes in the education system that are geared toward supporting boys who may be having a hard time in school. 

“Our study found that boys had a much higher risk of being developmentally behind than girls, as did children living in remote or rural areas, and those with a physical, sensory, or learning disability,” Segal said. “All these groups need far greater supports. 

“Paying particular attention to boys, especially those who are victims of child maltreatment is critical. Encouraging parents to read to their boys while valuable, is not enough, the onus is on the education sector to identify other mechanisms to support boys.” 

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