Does Reading to Children Give a Head-Start in Life?



This ‘project’ consists of two related components, both looking at early childhood educational outcomes using the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). This component examines the effect of parental reading to children early in life on the child’s own reading skills. This paper investigates the importance of parental reading to children early on in life (at around 4 years of age) for reading skills at age 4 to 5 up to age 10 to 11.

Data and Methodology
The project uses both the Child and Birth Cohorts of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), with the main focus being on the Child Cohort.  We use multiple waves for this cohort of just over 4,000 children who are aged 4 to 5 in the first wave, aged 6 to 7 in wave 2 (two years down the track), 8 to 9 in wave 3 and 10 to 11 in wave 4. We also use the linked NAPLAN data. The methodological approach involves the use of instrumental variables techniques to estimate the causal impact of reading to children on their own early reading and other cognitive, as well as non-cognitive outcomes. The instruments used affect the amount of time parents have available to them to read to their children, but not their children's reading skills. This allows us to isolate the causal effect of parental reading to the child on the child's reading skills. In estimating this effect of reading to children, a large number of other family and environmental factors that influence child outcomes are also taken into account. 

Project Status
Working paper has now been released and is available at Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series webpage and a summary of the report can be viewed at the Department of Education and Early Children Development (Victoria) webpage.