“The Most Important 20 Minutes of Your Day”

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Written by: Lynda Laughlin

A national nonprofit group, The Children’s Reading Foundation, calls the time parents devote daily to reading to their young children “the most important 20 minutes of your day.” When parents read to their children, it is commonly believed they not only have the opportunity to positively interact with them but also to foster strong, lifelong reading practices.

Image Findings from the Survey of Income and Program Participation show that in 2009, half of children 1 to 5 years old were read to seven or more times a week by a family member. While frequency of reading interactions is still more common among families above poverty, reading interactions among low-income families have increased over the last 10 years.

In 1998, 37 percent of 1- to 2-year-olds who were below poverty were read to by a family member seven or more times a week. By 2009, the percent increased to 45 percent. Parental reading interactions also increased over time for 3- to 5-year-olds. In 2009, 40 percent were read to seven or more times a week by a family member, an increase from 34 percent in 1998. Most of the increase since 1998 occurred by 2000 and has remained between 45 and 40 percent for both age groups.

On the other hand, more than half of children 1 to 5 years old (54 percent) who were living at or above the poverty line were read to seven or more times per week. The frequency of parental reading interactions among 1- to 2-year-olds in 2009 was 56 percent, not statistically different from 1998. Patterns of reading interactions for 3- to 5-year-olds increased from 50 percent in 1998 to 53 percent in 2004 before settling around 52 percent in 2009.

Additional indicators of child well-being, such as the frequency of parents praising their children or eating meals with them, participation in extracurricular activities, and academic experience, are available in a series of detailed tables released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.


Read the press release
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Census Bureau data on children.

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