Older siblings play key role in children’s developing literacy

We know that parents who love to read have a powerful influence on their children’s attitude toward reading. But, another often-overlooked influence on children’s reading habits is older siblings who love to read.

A new study in the Journal of Research in Reading finds that older siblings play a key role in the literacy lives of children, not only by modeling reading but by sharing reading materials, talking about literature, recommending reading resources and helping to teach their younger siblings how to read.

“This is an area of considerable importance to educators, parents and others, as academic achievement gaps persist along socio-economic lines and contributing factors remain poorly understood,” the authors write.


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The researchers interviewed 26 adults who were first-generation university graduates. These adults had not only beaten the odds by completing their degrees but they also went on to earn advanced degrees. The interviews were transcribed and coded to identify common patterns.

Of the adults who had older siblings (65%), 96% said those siblings had modeled reading for them, 65% that their older sibling shared reading materials, 38% reported their older sibling talked to them about books or reading materials, 12% said that their older sibling read aloud to them and 12% said the sibling helped teach them how to read.

“It may be wise for educators and others concerned about the literacy development of children to provide resources that encourage the mediation among siblings that may help to facilitate their development of independent reading habits,” the authors conclude.

“Influence of siblings on out-of-school reading practices,” by Mattew Knowester and Mari Plikuhn, Journal of Research in Reading, Volume 39, Issue 4, 2016, pp. 469-485.

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