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Inequities in children's reading skills: the role of home reading and preschool attendance

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posted on 2021-06-17, 08:32 authored by Sharon Goldfeld, Margarita Moreno-Betancur, Shuaijun Guo, Fiona Mensah, Elodie O'Connor, Sarah Gray, Shiau Chong, Sue Woolfenden, Katrina Williams, Amanda Kvalsvig, Hannah Badland, Fran AzpitarteFran Azpitarte, Meredith O'Connor
Children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds have poorer learning outcomes. These inequities are a significant public health issue, tracking forward to adverse health outcomes in adulthood. We examined the potential to reduce socioeconomic gaps in children's reading skills through increasing home reading and preschool attendance among disadvantaged children.

We drew on data from the nationally representative birth cohort of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (N = 5107) to examine the impact of socioeconomic disadvantage (0–1 year) on children's reading skills (8–9 years). An interventional effects approach was applied to estimate the extent to which improving the levels of home reading (2–5 years) and preschool attendance (4–5 years) of socioeconomically disadvantaged children to be commensurate with their advantaged peers, could potentially reduce socioeconomic gaps in children's reading skills.

Socioeconomically disadvantaged children had a higher risk of poor reading outcomes compared to more advantaged peers: absolute risk difference = 20.1% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 16.0%–24.2%). Results suggest that improving disadvantaged children's home reading and preschool attendance to the level of their advantaged peers could eliminate 6.5% and 2.1% of socioeconomic gaps in reading skills, respectively. However, large socioeconomic gaps would remain, with disadvantaged children maintaining an 18.3% (95% CI: 14.0%–22.7%) higher risk of poor reading outcomes in absolute terms.

There are clear socioeconomic disparities in children's reading skills by late childhood. Findings suggest that interventions that improve home reading and preschool attendance may contribute to reducing these inequities, but alone are unlikely to be sufficient to close the equity gap.


This work was supported by Australian Research Council Discovery Grant [grant number DP160101735] and was supported by the Victorian Government's Operational Infrastructure Support Program. Prof Goldfeld is supported by Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Practitioner Fellowship 1155290, Dr Mensah is supported by NHMRC Career Development Fellowship 1111160, Dr Moreno-Betancur is supported by Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Award DE190101326, and Dr O'Connor is supported by the Melbourne Children's LifeCourse initiative, funded by a Royal Children's Hospital Foundation Grant (2018-984). Prof Badland is supported by an RMIT University VC Senior Research Fellowship. The Changing Children's Chances investigator team oversees this program of work, and includes Prof Sharon Goldfeld, Prof Katrina Williams, A/Prof Gerry Redmond, Prof Frank Oberklaid, Prof Hannah Badland, Prof Gary Freed, Dr Fiona Mensah, A/Prof Sue Woolfenden, Dr Jenny Proimos, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, and Dr Jianfei Gong. Dr Francisco Azpitarte also acknowledges financial support from the Spanish State Research Agency and the European Regional Development Fund (ECO2016-76506-C4-2-R).



  • Social Sciences and Humanities


  • Criminology, Sociology and Social Policy

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Academic Pediatrics








Elsevier BV


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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© Academic Pediatric Association

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This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Academic Pediatrics and the definitive published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acap.2021.04.019.

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Dr Fran Azpitarte. Deposit date: 16 June 2021

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