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Reading aloud to children: the evidence
  1. E Duursma1,
  2. M Augustyn2,
  3. B Zuckerman2
  1. 1
    Reach Out and Read National Center, Boston, MA, USA
  2. 2
    Department of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA
  1. Barry Zuckerman, Department of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, One Boston Medical Center Place, Dowling 3 South, Boston, MA 02118, USA; barry.zuckerman{at}

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Promoting healthy child development lies at the heart of paediatric practice, yet a major challenge facing the field is applying evidence based standards. However, the evidence is clear as regards reading aloud to children. Ample research demonstrates that reading aloud to young children promotes the development of language and other emergent literacy skills,14 which in turn help children prepare for school.3 5


Reading aloud to children or shared bookreading has been linked to young children’s emergent literacy ability, which can be defined as the skills or knowledge that children develop before learning the more conventional skills of reading and writing68 which affect children’s later success in reading.9

During shared bookreading, children learn to recognise letters, understand that print represents the spoken word, and learn how to hold a book, turn the page and start at the beginning.1012 Shared bookreading is also associated with learning print concepts11 and exposing children to the written language register, which is different from spoken language,13 as well as story structures (eg, stories have a beginning, middle and end) and literacy conventions such as syntax and grammar which are essential for understanding texts.14 These emergent literacy skills are important for later success in reading.2 15


Phonological awareness (the ability to manipulate the sounds of spoken language1 1618) is another important prerequisite for learning to read. To read words, children need to know the rules for translating print into meaningful sounds.8 16 For example, preschoolers’ sensitivity to alliteration and rhyme at age 4–5 contributed to progress in reading and spelling at age 6–7.19 Children’s knowledge of nursery rhymes at age 3–4 is related to detecting alliteration and rhyme at ages 4–7.20 Many parents naturally promote awareness …

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  • Competing interests: All authors are paid consultants to Reach Out and Read.

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