Beliefs and motivations regarding early shared reading of parents from low-income households: A qualitative study


Advocate Children's Hospital, Oak Lawn


Background: Parent-child "shared" reading is a catalyst for development of language and other emergent literacy skills. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents initiate shared reading as soon as possible after birth. Persistent disparities exist in reading resources, routines, and subsequent literacy outcomes, disproportionately impacting low-income households.

Objective: To understand beliefs, motivations, and experiences regarding shared reading during early infancy among parents from low-income households.

Methods:In this qualitative exploratory study, parents of infants aged 0-9 months from low-income households who had initiated shared reading ("readers") and those who had not ("non-readers") were purposefully recruited to participate in individual semi-structured virtual interviews. These interviews were coded using inductive thematic analysis by a 3-member team with diverse backgrounds.

Results: A total of 21 parents participated (57% readers, 86% mothers). Infants were 86% African American/Black, with a mean age of 3 months. Barriers noted by readers and non-readers were: i) Competing demands on time, ii) Lack of resources, and iii) Parental mental health. An additional barrier noted solely by non-readers was, iv) It's too early/baby is not ready. Two benefits of reading were noted by both groups: 1) Parents as child's first teachers and 2) Reading catalyzes the child's development. Benefits noted exclusively by readers included: 3) Reading begets more reading 4) Bonding, 5) "It works," and 6) "Two-for-one" shared reading (other children involved).

Conclusions: This study provided insights into barriers and benefits regarding shared reading by socioeconomically disadvantaged parents of infants and has the potential to inform reading-related guidance and interventions.

What's new: This qualitative study provides important insights into beliefs and motivations regarding shared reading during infancy in Black parents from socioeconomically disadvantaged households. Emergent themes included both benefits and barriers, which may help inform reading-related guidance and interventions.

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