Reading Aloud, Playing With Young Kids May Reduce Hyperactivity, Study Shows

Most parents know that reading aloud to kids helps them with language skills. But there may be other benefits as well. In fact, a new study shows that reading aloud to and playing with very young kids may reduce hyperactivity and attention issues when kids start school.

The study was published in Pediatrics. It was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

The study looked at the impact of the Video Interaction Project (VIP), a reading and play-based program for parents of kids ages 0–5. The VIP program involves a series of 30- to 45-minute sessions between a parent and an early childhood specialist.

During each session, the specialist talks with the parent about reading and play activities for young kids. Then, the parent is videotaped for five minutes doing these activities with their child. The specialist and parent watch the video, and the parent gets feedback for use at home.

Over the 4.5-year study, 675 low-income families participated. Some families received VIP training for the entire time, others just when their kids were ages 0–3 or ages 3–5. A control group didn’t receive VIP training at all.

Understood experts Rayma Griffin, Margie Gillis and Stephanie Sarkis reviewed the study. Here’s the takeaway.

Key Findings

During the study, parents rated their kids on things like social skills, attention, hyperactivity and aggression. The researchers used these ratings to evaluate the impact of the program.

Compared to the control group, kids who had been read aloud to and played with in the study had better attention and less hyperactivity. They were also less aggressive. The biggest impact was for kids who were part of the VIP program for the entire study. However, the study didn’t look specifically at ADHD diagnoses among the kids.

Based on the results, researchers concluded that reading aloud to and playing with kids was helpful to their social-emotional development. The VIP program had a positive impact.

Key Takeaways for Parents

“The study confirms what we’ve known about good parenting practice,” says Griffin. “It’s vital to play with and read aloud to your child daily,” she notes. “Doing so can help support behaviors, like attention, that are important for learning.”

The inclusion of play in the study was key, says Gillis. “Play engages children in social interactions, which are critical for learning and communication. For kids with attention issues, active engagement through play is important.”

Interestingly, says Sarkis, one element in the study—feedback to parents—wasn’t fully explored. As part of the VIP program, a specialist reviewed video of the parent using reading and play activities with a child, and offered feedback.

“This feedback may have helped improve parenting skills, but that variable wasn’t measured,” says Sarkis. “Overall, however, these kinds of reading and play-based programs can be helpful for young kids.”

About the author

About the author

The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.