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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013

Family Reading to Young Children

Reading to young children promotes language acquisition and is linked with literacy development and, later on, with achievement in reading comprehension and overall success in school.100 The percentage of young children read to 3 or more times per week by a family member is one indicator of how well young children are being prepared for school.

Indicator Ed1: Percentage of children ages 3–5 who were read to 3 or more times in the last week by a family member by mother's education, selected years 1993–2007
Percentage of children ages 3–5 who were read to 3 or more times in the last week by a family member by mother's education, selected years 1993–2007

NOTE: Data are available for 1993, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2005, and 2007. Estimates are based on children ages 3–5 who have yet to enter kindergarten. Children without mothers in the home are not included in estimates.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Household Education Surveys Program.

  • Eighty-three percent of children ages 3–5 who were not yet in kindergarten were read to 3 or more times per week by a family member in 2007. This rate was higher than the rate in 1993 (78 percent), but the rate fluctuated in intervening years.
  • The percentage of Hispanic children who were read to 3 or more times per week in 2007 (68 percent) was lower than that for their White, non-Hispanic (91 percent), Black, non-Hispanic (78 percent), and Asian/Pacific Islander (87 percent) peers. While this percentage was lower for Black, non-Hispanics than for Whites, there was no measurable difference between the percentages for Black, non-Hispanics and Asians/Pacific Islanders.
  • In 2007, the percentage of children in families with incomes 200 percent or more of the poverty level who were read to 3 or more times per week by a family member (89 percent) was higher than the percentages of children in families with incomes below the poverty level (71 percent) and those in families with incomes 100–199 percent of the poverty level (81 percent).
  • A higher percentage of children from two-parent households than children from single-parent households were read to 3 or more times per week in 2007. Eighty-five percent of children in two-parent households were read to 3 or more times per week by a family member, compared with 77 percent of children living with one parent.
  • In 2007, some 95 percent of children whose mothers had at least a bachelor's degree were read to 3 or more times per week. In comparison, reading 3 or more times per week occurred for 86 percent of children whose mothers had some college education, for 74 percent of children whose mothers had a high school diploma or equivalent but no further education, and for 56 percent of children whose mothers had less than a high school diploma.
  • The percentages of children who were read to 3 or more times per week by a family member in the Northeast and the Midwest (86 and 88 percent, respectively) were higher than the percentage in the West (79 percent) in 2007. The percentage of children who were read to 3 or more times per week was also higher in the Midwest than in the South (82 percent).

table icon ED1 HTML Table

100 Heckman, J. (2000). Invest in the very young. Chicago, IL: Ounce of Prevention.