Skip Navigation
small NCES header image

Early literacy activities

Do you have any information on the early literacy activities of young children?

The percentage of prekindergarten children ages 35 read to frequently by a family member (i.e., three or more times in the week preceding the survey) increased from 78 percent in 1993 to 86 percent in 2005. There were also increases in the percentage of children whose family members frequently told them a story (from 43 to 54 percent); taught them letters, words, or numbers (from 58 to 77 percent); and taught them songs or music (from 41 to 54 percent).

All children, regardless of poverty status, were more likely to have had an adult read to them frequently in 2005 than in 1993; however, the increase among poor children (from 68 to 78 percent) was greater than the increase among nonpoor children (from 87 to 90 percent). Despite the greater increase for poor children, nonpoor children were still more likely than poor children to have had a family member read to them frequently in 2005 as was also the case in 1993. For example, in 2005, a greater percentage of nonpoor children were read to than poor children (90 vs. 78 percent). However, in 2005, there were no measurable differences found between nonpoor and poor children for the other three home literacy activities.

The percentage of children who engaged in certain literacy activities in 2005 varied by parents' education and race/ethnicity. Children whose parents had at least a high school diploma or equivalent were more likely to be read to and taught letters, words, or numbers than those children whose parents had less than a high school diploma. White children were more likely than Black or Hispanic children to have a family member read to them. However, a greater percentage of Hispanic children than White children were taught songs or music.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2006). The Condition of Education 2006 (NCES 2006-073), Indicator 33.

Percentage of prekindergarten children ages 3-5 who participated in home literacy activities with a family member three or more times in the preceding week, by selected child and family characteristics: 1993 and 2005
Characteristic Read to1 Told a story Taught letters, words, or numbers Taught songs or music
1993 2005 1993 2005 1993 2005 1993 2005
Total 78.3 85.7 43.0 53.7 57.7 76.6 41.0 54.4
3 79.4 86.4 46.4 54.5 57.2 75.5 45.0 60.9
4 77.8 84.7 41.2 52.8 58.1 76.8 38.9 49.7
5 75.9 86.5 35.8 54.6 57.9 80.0 33.1 47.1
Male 77.4 84.7 42.6 53.2 57.7 75.5 38.3 50.7
Female 79.2 86.8 43.4 54.3 57.7 77.8 43.8 58.4
White 84.8 91.9 44.3 53.3 57.2 75.7 40.2 52.1
Black 65.9 78.5 39.0 54.3 62.7 80.6 48.9 56.4
Hispanic 58.2 71.8 37.7 49.8 53.9 74.3 38.7 59.1
Asian/Pacific Islander 68.8 84.4 52.1 64.5 61.8 75.2 35.9 46.9

1 In 1993, respondents were asked about their reading frequency in one of the two versions of the survey questionnaire. The percentages presented in the table are for all of the respondents who answered three or more times on either version of the questionnaire.

2 Black includes African American, Hispanic includes Latino, and Pacific Islander includes Native Hawaiian. Race categories exclude Hispanic origin unless specified. Other race/ethnicities are included in the total but are not shown separately.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2006). The Condition of Education 2006 (NCES 2006-073), Table A-33-1.

Related Tables and Figures:  (Listed by Release Date)

Other Resources:  (Listed by Release Date)

Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey


No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.
National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education