Do Fathers' Home Reading Practices at Age 2 Predict Child Language and Literacy at Age 4?

Published:October 19, 2017DOI:



      Maternal shared reading practices predict emergent literacy, but fathers' contributions are less certain. We examined whether fathers' shared home reading activities at 2 years predict language and emergent literacy at age 4 years, when controlling for maternal contributions; and whether this differentially benefits these outcomes in disadvantaged children.


      Two-parent families were recruited from 5 relatively disadvantaged communities for the universal Let's Read literacy promotion population-based trial (ISRCTN 04602902) in Melbourne, Australia. For exposure at 2 years, home reading practices were recorded via self-reported maternal and paternal StimQ-Toddler questionnaires and dichotomized at study median (high vs low). At 4 years, outcomes assessed included receptive and expressive language (Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals 4) and emergent literacy (Sunderland Phonological Awareness Test–Revised). Linear regression, adjusted for mothers' home reading, was performed to assess 2-year-old vocabulary and communication skills and family disadvantage. Interaction of disadvantage (yes vs no) with high home reading by fathers and at least one parent was assessed.


      Data were available for 405 families (64.3%). High father reading at 2 years (reference: low) predicted better expressive (mean difference, 4.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.5 to 8.0) and receptive (mean difference, 5.0; 95% confidence interval, 1.8 to 8.2) language at 4 years (both P < .001), but not emergent literacy skills. Similar patterns were observed in families with at least one parent with high home reading. Fathers' reading did not differentially benefit outcomes in disadvantaged children.


      Fathers' involvement in reading at 2 years predicted better language but not emergent literacy at 4 years, and it did not protect against adverse effects of socioeconomic disadvantage.


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