A research study conducted earlier this year shows an interesting effect that a child’s environment has on reading ability and development. The study involved over three hundred children over a span of two years: one group from kindergarten-second grade, and another group from first grade to third grade.

Environmental factors taken into consideration as part of the study included:

  • Educational instruction in school
  • Nutrition
  • How much children were read to
  • How child was cared for by parents
  • The child’s neighborhood

Steven Petrill was the lead author of the research, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. A professor in the department of Human Development and Family Science at Ohio State University, Petrill and other researchers found that genetics and environment had an influence on the development of reading skills, but a child’s environment played a particularly important role in the progression of those reading skills.

“When Petrill and colleagues measured the children's growth in reading skills, environment became a much more important influence. Environment is almost completely responsible for the growth of reading skills that are taught, such as words and letters, and 80 percent responsible for growth in awareness of sounds in reading.” – Environment Crucial to Boosting Child's Reading Skills via U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Also quoted in Ohio State University’s onCampus, Petrill made an interesting conclusion about his study, relating it to what those in the medical profession understand about health, wellness, and genetic disposition for diseases:

“We believe that both factors play a role in reading, which is very similar to what researchers find in health issues such as heart disease and obesity. For example, people can change their environment to help lower their risk of heart disease, no matter their genetic susceptibility to the disease.”

About That Environment

Much of what parents can do for their children is basic:

1. Read to your child.

2. Provide him with books.

3. Teach infants and young children simple songs, rhymes, and finger plays.

4. Practice rhyming words together.

5. From a young age, encourage your child to “read” simple books to you. It doesn’t matter if she gets every word right. The ability to retell a story in their own words is rich practice for reading and reading comprehension.

6. Provide them with basic needs: nutrition and social interaction.

Additional Resources:

The Crucial Role of Parents in Children’s Literacy and Language Development

National Association For the Education Of Young Children (naeyc): Where We Stand On Learning to Read and Write