Teachers and parents could help boost preschoolers' reading skills later on just by changing how they read books aloud to the kids, a new study suggests.
Simple things like pointing out words and letters and noting that we read from left to right led to more advanced reading skills as much as two years later in preschoolers who took part in the study by Ohio State University researchers.
The study was published in the April 2012 issue of the journal Child Development.
Study co-author Shayne Piasta, an assistant professor of teaching and learning, said the small changes to reading aloud should be relatively easy for preschool teachers to incorporate. And it shouldn't be difficult for parents to try to do the same when they read to their kids.
"Using print references during reading was just a slight tweak to what teachers were already doing in the classroom, but it led to a sizable improvement in reading for kids," she said.
Sounds simple, doesn't it? But Piasta said that research suggests that teachers who aren't trained in making print references are much less apt to do so than those who are. And few parents make print references when reading aloud.
The study involved more than 300 low-income kids with below-average reading skills who participated in a 30-week shared-reading program. It was part of a randomized clinical trial based at the university "to test the short- and long-term impacts associated with reading regularly to preschool children in the classroom," the university said.
The kids were separated into three groups and read the same books by teachers, but for different numbers of reading sessions each week. Teachers for two groups were trained to make specific print references while those for the third group read as they normally would have.
The study found that the preschoolers exposed to the print references during four reading sessions per week had more advanced word reading, spelling and comprehension skills one and even two years later than those read to without any references.
Piasta suggested that making print references helps kids "crack the code of language" because it helps them understand what letters and words are and how they relate to learning to read.