Background Research has shown that activities such as play and reading are beneficial for the development of a child. This study examined the social and demographic characteristics of mothers who play with, read to and tell stories to their child, using data from the UK-wide Millennium Cohort Study (MCS).
Methods Data were obtained from 14 034 mothers of singleton 5-year-old children. Using data from the first and third sweeps of the MCS, this study examined how often mothers engaged with their child in playing, reading and telling stories, and on their social and demographic characteristics: ethnicity, socioeconomic status, highest academic qualification, lone mother status, age at birth of cohort child, number of children and employment status. Adjusted logistic regression analyses were conducted using Stata.
Results When their children were 5 years old, 22% of mothers reported playing with their child daily, 51.3% reading daily and 13.2% telling stories everyday (tables 1–4). Indian, Pakistani and Black mothers were less likely to play and read to their child daily compared with White mothers and those with more than one child were less likely to engage daily in any of the three activities studied. Mothers aged 14–24 years of age when the cohort child was born were significantly more likely to report playing everyday than mothers in the oldest age category (35+). The same applied to those in the employment categories ‘on leave’, unemployed or students compared with mothers in full-time employment. Mothers in the lower socioeconomic groups compared with those in managerial and professional occupations were less likely to read everyday, the same applied to mothers with academic achievements lower than a degree. Mothers who worked part-time and those who were ‘on-leave’, self-employed, students or unemployed were all more likely to report reading everyday than mothers who worked full-time.
Conclusions There are significant inequalities in the frequency of playing, reading and telling stories according to socio-demographic characteristics. This information can be used to target vulnerable children using established initiatives for example, Bookstart and Sure Start to promote mothers playing, reading and telling stories to their children.