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Parents’ participation crucial for children’s reading skills

Large gains in learning can be made by involving the parents in their children’s reading. This is the conclusion of the research project READ, which has been conducted in collaboration between Aarhus BSS, the city of Aarhus and VIA University College.

2016.10.12

"The results from READ are very promising, especially when the effect is measured in relation to the cost of the efforts. For children with an ethnic background other than Danish, the parents’ effort and commitment have a more positive effect than extra lessons or having an extra teacher in the classroom,” says Simon Calmer Andersen.

The effect of involving parents in their children’s reading is the equivalent of two adults in the classroom or four extra hours of Danish lessons a week for four months in the fourth grade. Particularly students with parents who see their children’s reading skills as fixed have shown strong progress. Children with an ethnic background other than Danish have also benefited from the efforts. 

The READ project has included approximately 1500 students from Aarhus in the second and third grade and aimed to get children and their parents to read more together at home. On two occasions, the students were given books for self-reading while the parents received specific guidance on how to best support and help their children read and understand the texts. The parental guidance emphasised that parents should not focus on the result - how accurately the children read - but rather encourage the children and praise them for their efforts.

After two months, the results show that the students had gained the equivalent of four months progress in reading skills.

Particularly children with parents characterised by a “fixed mindset” have shown good results. “Fixed mindset” describes the parents who have a tendency to view their children’s reading skills as fixed and very difficult to change, even with practice. Children with an ethnic background other than Danish have benefited just as much from the project as children with a Danish background, which is in itself a success, says Professor Simon Calmer Andersen from TrygFonden's Centre for Child Research at Aarhus University, who is behind the research project along with Professor Helena Skyt Nielsen.

"The results from READ are very promising, especially when the effect is measured in relation to the cost of the efforts. For children with an ethnic background other than Danish, the parents’ effort and commitment have a more positive effect than extra lessons or having an extra teacher in the classroom. The same applies to students whose parents have a ‘fixed mindset’”, says Simon Calmer Andersen.

Parents are important partners

The Alderman for Children and Young People in the city of Aarhus Bünyamin Simsek is happy with the good results.

"The results of READ are remarkable and underline that parents play a crucial role, not just for the children’s well-being, but also when it comes to academic achievement. The parents are our most important partners. We must get better at involving parents as a resource. As READ shows, we can make a big difference by involving and collaborating with all the parents to a larger degree. Including the parents who we don’t immediately believe have the most resources,” says Bünyamin Simsek.

The Minister for Children, Education and Gender Equality Ellen Trane Nørby has followed the project in Aarhus with interest.

"READ is an important project. There is a large potential in strengthening the collaboration between school and household by relatively simple means, like including parents in their children’s reading. It’s particularly interesting that the students whose parents see their children’s reading skills as fixed are really making good progress. It underlines the need for activating parents and strengthening the dialogue between school and home. When the school and the parents stand shoulder to shoulder regarding children’s learning, it makes a difference,” says Ellen Trane Nørby. 

Further information:
Simon Calmar Andersen, mobile phone: +45 6166 6501
Bünyamin Simsek, Alderman for Children and Young People, mobile phone: +45 2194 7257 

FACTS ABOUT THE PROJECT
TrygFonden's Centre for Child Research at Aarhus BSS has conducted the READ research project in collaboration with Children and Young People in Aarhus and VIA University College.

The project aimed to examine if relatively simple efforts can improve the parents’ commitment and co-production with the school with an emphasis on the development of the child’s academic competences within reading and math.

The second and/or third grades from 29 primary and lower secondary schools have participated; half of a total of 133 classes were randomly selected for the treatment group, the other half were selected for the control group. A total of approximately 1500 students have participated in the project. In addition to distributing books for self-reading to the students and advising parents on how to help their child read and understand the texts, a film has been produced as a source of inspiration for how parents can read with their child. The film has been translated into five languages, while the books and the parental guidance material are available in 10 languages.

Link to scientific article: "Reading intervention with a growth mindset approach improves children’s skills"

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