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Big rewards in reading to your toddlers

Illustration: Matt Golding.

Illustration: Matt Golding.

Growing up in a home with lots of books and being read to as a toddler has a bigger impact on the performance of a child starting school than temperament or socio-economic background, according to research.

To determine the best predictors of a child's ability to be organised, pay attention and stay on task in class, researchers from Queensland University of Technology and Charles Sturt University tracked nearly 3500 children from birth to age six.

Overall, girls did better when they started school, as did children from higher socio-economic backgrounds, according to the data drawn from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. But researchers found the quality of a child's home learning environment when they were toddlers was the most significant indication of their ability to manage at school.

''It was strongly predictive of academic, social and emotional outcomes later on,'' said Sue Walker, an early childhood expert from QUT's faculty of education.

Children who grew up in homes with lots of books and who enjoyed being read to for longer periods of time were most likely to perform well when they reached school.

''When they come to school they're prepared to learn effectively,'' said Associate Professor Walker. ''They can pay attention in class, stay focused on tasks, and keep their belongings organised.''

She said that any kind of engagement with a child when they were very young would benefit their development, including involving them in music and playing games that focus on memory skills.

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