Joint Book Reading Makes Success in Learning to Read: A Meta-Analysis on Intergenerational Transmission of Literacy

NICHCY’s Structured Abstract 44 describes the following:

Title | Joint Book Reading Makes Success in Learning to Read: A Meta-Analysis on Intergenerational Transmission of Literacy

Author | Bus, A.G., Ijzendoorn van, M.H., & Pellegrini, A.D.

Source Review of Educational Research, 65(1),1-21.

Year Published | 1995

Results of this quantitative analysis of empirical evidence related to parent-preschooler reading support the hypothesis that parent-preschooler reading is related to outcome measures such as language growth, emergent literacy, and reading achievement. Book reading apparently affects acquisition of the written language register. (ERIC: SLD)

Experts believe that if early readers are exposed to certain environments and practices, such as a home with many types of reading material and parents who read to them, they will develop into stronger readers. There are many skills that early joint reading with a parent may facilitate, including: a child’s understanding of how both books and the sentences within them are structured, that the letters on the page correspond to different sounds and make up words, and that reading is important because it is valued by one’s parents. This meta-analysis examines the relationship between reading to toddlers and preschoolers, their subsequent language growth, and reading achievement.

Research Questions
This meta-analysis is an attempt to determine if the frequency of joint book reading is related to the child’s eventual success in reading achievement.

The study looks at the effects of joint book reading on:

  1. Language growth
  2. Emergent literacy (name writing or reading, letter naming, and phoneme blending before school age)
  3. Reading achievement during school age

Research Design

  • Number of Studies Included | 33
  • Number of Subjects | 3,820
  • Years Spanned | 1966-1993

Research Subjects
Participants in this study came from families with low, middle, mixed, and high socioeconomic backgrounds.

Age/Grade of Subjects
Average age= 5.6

Specified Disability

Parents read with their preschool children.

Duration of Intervention

Joint reading was found to have a positive effect on language skills, emergent literacy, and reading achievement. Of the three, joint reading produced the most significant positive effect on language skills.

Several factors were found not to influence the outcomes, including socioeconomic status (SES), study design (experimental vs. correlational/longitudinal/retrospective, publication status; published or unpublished; strongly controlled vs. less controlled).
Joint reading was more effective for promoting book reading and for increasing reading achievement in younger samples of children.

Combined Effects Size
The overall effect size was 0.59. The effect sizes varied from 0.67 for language skills to 0.55 for reading skills and 0.58 for emergent literacy.

Parent-preschooler book reading has a positive effect on children’s language skills, emergent literacy, and reading achievement. Studies that examined younger children reported greater effect sizes overall than studies that examined older children. Certain factors that were expected to impact the effectiveness of joint reading, in fact, did not—most notably, socioeconomic status. Even in low-income families in which the parents had low levels of literacy, the frequency of joint book reading affected children’s literacy skills. This finding supports family literacy programs that place an emphasis on parent-preschooler reading, especially for low-income families. This analysis found book reading is as strong a predictor of reading achievement as Phonemic Awareness (PA). The authors suggest the joint book reading strategy be incorporated into emerging literacy/pre-reading programs.


* Meta-Analysis | A widely-used research method in which (1) a systematic and reproducible search strategy is used to find as many studies as possible that address a given topic; (2) clear criterion are presented for inclusion/exclusion of individual studies into a larger analysis; and (3) results of included studies are statistically combined to determine an overall effect (effect size) of one variable on another.