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New Research Shows Access to Print Materials Improves Children's Reading

Unprecedented Meta-Analysis of Children's Book Lending and Ownership Programs Reveals Positive Effects; Conducted by Learning Point Associates and Commissioned by Reading Is Fundamental

WASHINGTON, September 21, 2010—What impact, if any, does access to print materials have on our children's reading? In an unprecedented, exhaustive search of 11,000 reports and analysis of 108 of the most relevant studies, children's book lending and ownership programs were shown to have positive behavioral, educational, and psychological outcomes.

The study, "Children's Access to Print Materials and Education-Related Outcomes," was commissioned by Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), the largest children's literacy nonprofit in the United States, and conducted by Learning Point Associates, a nonprofit education research and consulting organization and affiliate of American Institutes for Research.

One major emphasis of federal education policy has been the effort to reduce and eliminate gaps in academic achievement between children of different racial and ethnic groups and children from low-income families. Children's book distribution programs were created to provide greater access to high-quality, age-appropriate reading materials to children from low-income homes as one effort to address this achievement gap.

"The findings in this rigorous analysis reveal what so many have both suspected and innately known to be true-children's access to print materials does, in fact, improve reading, among other critical educational outcomes," said Carol H. Rasco, RIF president and CEO. "We are thrilled to have this study validate RIF's mission of providing books to the children who need them most."

The meta-analysis of the 44 studies determined to be the most thorough and carefully conducted of the 108 examined in the review found that access to print materials had these effects:

  • Improves children's reading performance. Studies suggest that providing children with print materials helps children read better. Among the studies reviewed, kindergarten students showed the biggest increase in reading performance.

     

  • Are instrumental in helping children learn the basics of reading. Providing children with reading materials allowed them to develop basic reading skills such as letter and word identification, phonemic awareness, and completion of sentences.

     

  • Causes children to read more and for longer lengths of time. Giving children print materials led to more shared reading between parents and children. Children who received books also read more frequently and for longer periods of time.

     

  • Produces improved attitudes toward reading and learning among children. Children with greater access to books and other print materials-whether through borrowing books or through receiving books to own-expressed more enjoyment of books, reading, and academics.

"In the current policy environment, policymakers need more direct evidence that budgetary support for these programs is actually making an impact on children," said Jim Lindsay, Ph.D., a senior research associate at Learning Point Associates. "Unlike many literature reviews, this one used multiple approaches to identify and obtain every research report written on the subject and used meta-analytic techniques to condense all the research findings into single effect-size estimates. The collective findings provide compelling support for programs that provide books to children living in low-income families."

The meta-analytic research synthesis conducted by the Learning Point Associates research team examined as many research findings on the relationship between children's access to print materials as could be found. After thorough screening to determine inclusion in the full review, the final meta-analyses were conducted on the 108 empirical reports that directly addressed the research question. A subset of those reports using rigorous research designs were analyzed for causal links between the access to print material and the eight categories of outcomes.

About Learning Point Associates
Learning Point Associates is a nationally recognized nonprofit education research and consulting organization with 25 years of experience working with educators and policymakers to transform education systems and student learning. The organization's reputation is built on a solid foundation of designing and conducting rigorous and relevant education research and evaluations; developing and delivering tools, services, and resources targeted at pressing education issues; and analyzing and synthesizing education policy trends and practices.

Since 1984, Learning Point Associates has operated the regional education laboratory serving the Midwest-initially known as the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL) and now known as REL Midwest. Learning Point Associates also operates the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, National Charter School Resource Center, Great Lakes East Comprehensive Center, and Great Lakes West Comprehensive Center. For more information, visit http://www.learningpt.org.

Learning Point Associates became an affiliate of AIR on August 1, 2010.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is an independent, nonpartisan not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit www.air.org.

About RIF
Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. (RIF), founded in 1966, motivates children to read by working with them, their parents, and community members to make reading a fun and beneficial part of everyday life. RIF's highest priority is reaching underserved children from birth to age 8. Through community volunteers in every state and U.S. territory, RIF provides 4.5 million children with 16 million new, free books and literacy resources each year. For more information, and to access reading resources, visit RIF's website at www.RIF.org.

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New Research Shows Access to Print Materials Improves Children's Reading