Reading aloud stimulates language development especially in temperamental babies

Hearing stories read aloud stimulates language development in all babies from the age of 8 months, but in particular in temperamental babies. This is a finding of Leiden education specialist Heleen van den Berg in her doctoral thesis. PhD defence 19 May.

Snowball effect

The Boekstart logo

The Boekstart logo

Being read to allows babies to experience a more complex language structure than that used at mealtimes, playtime or bedtime. That is why reading stories to babies stimulates language development from the age of 8 months. The effects are already measurable at 15 months. The children who have been read to show an even greater difference at 22 months. Stimulating their language development helps increase their curiosity for stories, songs and rhymes. The snowball effect is that their vocabulary continues to grow at an increasingly fast rate.

Temperamental babies

Daddy reading aloud

Daddy reading aloud

This is the case for all babies, but especially babies who are so tempermental that their temperament obstructs the communication between the parents and the child. These babies are excitable and cry easily. This problem also has a negative effect on language development. Using BoekStart, parents are able to ignore the difficult behaviour of their child and read them stories all the same.

BoekStart programme

Van den Berg sets out her findings following research on the BoekStart programme, which is an initiative started by the Stichting Lezen and the National Library, and which has now been introduced nationwide. When their child is three months old, young parents receive a gift voucher which they can trade in for a BoekStart kit at the public library; it contains two children books, one of which includes a CD with songs, as well as a baby membership ofthe library.

BoekStart as possible solution

TheBoekStart case with contents

TheBoekStart case with contents

The PhD candidate also examined which parents tend to pick up the BoekStart kit and which do not. She discovered that parents who have temperamental babies and who find verbal communication with their baby problematic, are five times more likely to pick up the kit than parents with a non-temperamental baby. Van den Berg's conclusion is that the first group appears to have the expectation that reading to their baby will benefit the verbal relation with their child.

Difference between better and less well educated parents

Van den Berg also discovered that more highly-educated people with a temperamental child use BoekStart more often (almost 39%) than less-educated people with a lower educational level (13%). This is despite indicating in the completed questionnaire that they experience the same verbal communication problems with their temperamental child as the others. But apparently they feel less inclined to try and solve this problem in the short term.

Van den Berg's recommendation is therefore to publicise the effect of BoekStart more widely, for example with the help of child health centres. Van den Berg's research is unique: in general very little experimental evaluation research is carried out into intervention approaches with young children.

BoekStart has been developed based on a similar programme used in Great Britain. The different versions adjusted to suit each country have already been introduced in eleven European countries, as well as in Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Jamaica. 

(18 May 2014)

Studying in Leiden



Last Modified: 19-05-2015