FRIDAY, June 17 (HealthDay News) -- Home learning experiences such as reading books with parents can improve low-income preschool children's readiness to start school, researchers say.

The new study included more than 1,850 U.S. children and their mothers in families with household incomes at or below the federal poverty line. During home visits when the children were ages 1, 2, 3 and 5 years, the New York University researchers looked at how often the children took part in literary activities (such as shared book reading), the quality of the mothers' interactions with their children (such as exposing children to frequent and varied adult speech), and the availability of learning materials, including children's books.

The researchers also assessed the number of words the children understood and their knowledge of letters and words at age 5.

Differences in the children's home learning environment predicted their readiness to start school, according to the study in the current issue of the journal Child Development. For example, children whose home learning environment scores were consistently low were much more likely to have delays in language and literacy skills at pre-kindergarten than children who had high home learning scores.

"Our findings indicate that enriched learning experiences as early as the first year of life are important to children's vocabulary growth, which in turn provides a foundation for children's later school success," study leader Eileen T. Rodriguez said in a news release from the Society for Research in Child Development.

She and her colleagues also found that the course of a child's early learning experiences were predicted by: children's cognitive abilities as infants; mothers' race and ethnicity, education and employment; and a family's household income.

More information

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