Early Reading Research

From 7 April to 6 May 2021, the Market Research Centre, on the orders of Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania, conducted the public opinion poll regarding the early reading habits in Lithuania. Parents with children younger than three years old were questioned.

The research was conducted by implementing the early reading incentive project “Book Start” (lith. “Knygų startas”), which is a part of the 2019–2024 Reading Incentive Program being financed by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania.

The research shows that during recent years, the habits of early reading have significantly improved, if we compare to the results of the 2015 research “Reading Habits of Lithuanians”, when 73% of parents raising 0–2 year old children answered the question “How much time per week do you allocate for reading” that they do not allocate any time for book reading. This research showed that almost every day, a bit more than half of parents (53%) read to their 0–3 year old children; a bit more than one fifth of parents (21%) read to their children at least 3–4 times a week, and 16% of parents – 1–2 times a week. Nevertheless, there still exist those parents, who rarely or never read to their children.

They explain this based on the fact that their child is too little for reading and will not understand it. The majority of them intend to read to their children when they become one year of age. This shows that parents lack understanding about the early reading – the specialists recommend starting to read to your baby right after they are born.

The majority of respondents answered that they read with their child in the evening (78%). It is believable that reading to a child most frequently is a part of the daily ritual that helps to prepare for relaxation. As many as 94% of respondents indicated that the mother is the one who usually reads to the child. A bit more than one third (37%) of respondents answered that the father is the one who usually reads to the child. Thus, there is a lack of change in this area. Scientific research shows that the participation of the father in reading is no less important than the participation of the mother. Moreover, this participation is different and gives other kinds of benefit for the early development of the child. Some respondents indicated that sisters, brothers, grandparents or a nanny is reading to their child.

The average parents’ reading time with a child is 20 minutes. By following other early reading research, this is the recommended duration by specialists – it is sufficient quality for a child of such age.

Parents see a lot of advantages of early reading, however, most of them associate it with the development of the child and skills. The shaping of a link with the child and the development of values is also stressed. The motives associated with the daily routine, calming down the child and preparing them for bed are least important to parents, even though the behaviour of the respondents shows that these elements are also significant.

Parents stated that when selecting the books most important for them are the wishes of the child; it is also important that the book would conform to the needs of the child of such age. About one third (34%) of respondents state that the aesthetic look of the book is very important. Moreover, importance is placed on whether the book is known to parents and whether other children liked it. When selecting a book to read to their little ones, parents do not care about the popularity of the author.

The research showed a significant problem that a large part of parents (70%) do not especially look for information about reading and its benefits. For those parents, who look for such information, social networks are one of the primary sources (more than half of respondents have indicated this – 53%); however, social networks have an abundance of contradictory and unreliable information, thus, it could be very difficult to sort fact from fiction. Nevertheless, a lot of respondents state that they look for information on the websites especially dedicated for children’s literature (38%), websites of libraries or social network accounts (36%), and on websites dedicated for special literature (32%). A large part of parents follow the recommendations from other parents (24%), friends, relatives, acquaintances (27%); a smaller proportion of parents (19%) showed that they follow specialists recommendations. The research also showed that recommendations from bookstagramers have almost no influence on parents.

In total, 314 respondents conforming to the indicated criterion were questioned – 107 men and 207 women. The poll was conducted via phone interview. The majority of respondents belong to the age group of 30–34 (33%), they live in big cities (43%), are raising 2 children (46%) and have a university degree (52%).