A systematic review of the impact of parent-child reading

A stark gap in performance between children from higher and lower socio-economic backgrounds has opened up by the time they have reached school. This gap is especially pronounced for spoken language and school readiness, and has been shown to persist to the end of primary school and beyond.

Parent-child book reading interventions have been proposed as a potential solution to close this gap. However, there is a need to bring the evidence together to help inform policy and practice.

In this study the researchers will conduct a systematic review of the international literature on interventions involving parent-child book reading. They will focus on the significance of parent-child book reading as a predictor of subsequent performance. The study aims to answer these questions:

  • What is the evidence of effectiveness of joint book reading with preschool children in improving school readiness and early language?
  • How does effectiveness vary between characteristics of children, for different adult relationships to the child and with different reading intervention activities?
  • To what extent does this evidence translate into medium and long term improvements in language and literacy outcomes for children?
  • What should be recommended to early years practitioners, commissioners and policy makers about the messages associated with early parent/child reading?

The researchers will analyse and describe the range of interventions, populations and outcomes that have been studied. Where possible, they will also carry out a meta-analysis, to draw out findings based on data from a wide range of studies.

Project details



Professor James Law and Dr Cristina McKean, Newcastle University

Robert Rush, Queen Margaret University

Grant amount and duration:


September 2016 - September 2017