Early Literacy Research Library (ELRL) - Article

Home Literacy Environment and Shared Reading in the Newborn Period

Sinclair, E.M., McCleery, E.J., Koepsell, L., Zuckerman, K.E., Stevenson, E.B. (2018) Home Literacy Environment and Shared Reading in the Newborn Period. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 39(1), 66-71. ,

Access: Institutional Access

Publication year


core topic(s)

Early Literacy , Shared Reading

Population Characteristics


Exposures, Outcomes, Other

Home Language/Literacy/Learning Environment , Parent Behaviors and Skills , Parent Knowledge, Attitudes, and Beliefs


To characterize the home reading practices and environments of 2-week-old infants.

outcomes evaluated

Home reading behaviors and environments.


Participants recruited from a single urban pediatric center that served a largely non-Hispanic white population.


We distributed written self-administered surveys to 223 families seen for 2-week well-child visits. The survey assessed the frequency of shared reading, “favorite activities” with infants (including shared reading), number of books in the home, and sources of reading information. Descriptive and multivariate statistics were computed to assess the frequency of primary outcomes and sociodemographic associations.

sample size

n=223 (surveys)


Measure of Family Reading Behaviors: items adapted from the Before and After Books and Reading survey and the Stony Brook Family Reading Survey assessed:

    • frequency of shared reading at each interval
    • whether reading was one of the parents’ top 3 “favorite activities” with their infant
    • number of children’s books in the home


Measure of Home Literacy Environment: whether the parent enjoys reading, whether the parent was read to as a child, and whether the parent had yet received any information about shared reading.


Measure of Sociodemographics: household primary language, parent race/ethnicity, parental educational attainment, number of children in the home, duration of US residency, and use of early childhood community agencies (SNAP, WIC, Head Start, EI/ECSE).


Electronic Medical Record Review: additional demographic information (e.g. infant’s gestational age, birth weight, and sex).


At the 2-week well-child visit, 57.7% of families had not yet started reading with their infants. A minority of families (29.1%) reported shared reading as a favorite activity. Thirty-five percent of families reported having ≤10 books in the home. Non-white race and having lived outside the United States were significantly associated with having ≤10 books in the home. Parents who reported not always enjoying reading were less likely to have started reading to their infant.


Differences in both book ownership and having initiated shared reading are present from the newborn period. Findings suggest an opportunity for the provision of children's books in early infancy through primary care, particularly for immigrant and minority families. Engaging parents to incorporate language-rich activities, including shared reading, with their infants may be especially important for those who have a history of not being read to or who do not report enjoying reading.


Research was limited to a single urban pediatric center and was also limited to families who could complete a survey in English or Spanish. Results may not be generalizable to more diverse practice settings because the clinic was largely and non-Hispanic white. We considered incorporating family income/poverty as a variable but did not have a reliable proxy. Insurance data are complicated at the 2-week visit. Some infants are covered under the mother's insurance, whereas others have transitioned to Medicaid or other policies. Zip codes are not predictive of income in the geographic area of the study population. Additionally, although oral administration of the survey was made available, no families chose this option. As a result, the survey may have excluded lower-literacy parents, which might lead to an overestimation of child literacy outcomes, including shared reading and book ownership. Finally, survey data were based on parent report and may not reflect actual behavior.