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Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)
Preprimary, Elementary, and Secondary Education

Home Literacy Activities With Young Children

(Last Updated: May 2021)

In 2019, higher percentages of children ages 3–5 who were White (91 percent) and of Two or more races (89 percent) had a family member read to them three or more times in the past week than did children who were Asian (81 percent), Hispanic (77 percent), or Black (75 percent). However, there were no measurable differences by race/ethnicity in the percentage of children who were taught letters, words, or numbers by a family member.

Literacy development begins early, long before children enter formal instruction in reading and writing (Terrell and Watson, 2018).1 Parents and other family members can introduce young children to literacy and the world of books in different ways, including reading to them; telling stories; teaching letters, words, or numbers; and visiting a library. This indicator looks at parent reports of home literacy activities over the past week or month2 for 3- to 5-year-old children who were not yet in kindergarten.

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Figure 1. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds not yet enrolled in kindergarten, by type and frequency of home literacy activity: 2012 and 2019
Figure 1. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds not yet enrolled in kindergarten, by type and frequency of home literacy activity: 2012 and 2019

NOTE: All information is based on parent reports. The National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES):2012 used self-administered paper-and-pencil questionnaires that were mailed to respondents. For NHES:2019, the majority of data were collected using a web-based survey instrument that respondents accessed with credentials they received in a mailed invitation. Paper surveys were used for nonresponse follow-up and for a small experiment. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Early Childhood Program Participation Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program (ECPP-NHES:2012 and 2019). See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 207.10.

Figure 2. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds not yet enrolled in kindergarten, by type and frequency of home literacy activity and child's race/ethnicity: 2019
Figure 2. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds not yet enrolled in kindergarten, by type and frequency of home literacy activity and child's race/ethnicity: 2019

NOTE: All information is based on parent reports. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Excludes a small number of non-Hispanic children whose parents did not choose any race from the categories provided on the race item in the questionnaire. Data for Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native 3- to 5-year-olds were not included because reporting standards were not met. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Early Childhood Program Participation Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program (ECPP-NHES: 2019). See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 207.10.

Figure 3. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds not yet enrolled in kindergarten, by type and frequency of home literacy activity and mother’s highest level of education: 2019
Figure 3. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds not yet enrolled in kindergarten, by type and frequency of home literacy activity and mother’s highest level of education: 2019

1 Includes those who completed high school through equivalency programs, such as a GED program.

NOTE: All information is based on parent reports. Excludes children living in households with no mother or female guardian present. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Early Childhood Program Participation Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program (ECPP-NHES: 2019). See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 207.10.

Figure 4. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds not yet enrolled in kindergarten, by type and frequency of home literacy activity and family income: 2019
Figure 4. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds not yet enrolled in kindergarten, by type and frequency of home literacy activity and family income: 2019

NOTE: All information is based on parent reports. Family income is reported in current dollars. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Early Childhood Program Participation Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program (ECPP-NHES: 2019). See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 207.10.


1 Terrell, P. and Watson, M. (2018). Laying a Firm Foundation: Embedding Evidence-Based Emergent Literacy Practices Into Early Intervention and Preschool Environments. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 49(2): 148–164. Retrieved March 10, 2021, from https://doi.org/10.1044/2017_LSHSS-17-0053.

2 Refers to the past week or month before parents were surveyed.

3 The National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES):2012 used self-administered paper-and-pencil questionnaires that were mailed to respondents. For NHES:2019, the majority of data were collected using a web-based survey instrument that respondents accessed with credentials they received in a mailed invitation. Paper surveys were used for nonresponse follow-up and for a small experiment.

4 Excludes a small number of non-Hispanic 3- to 5-year-olds whose parents did not choose any race from the categories provided on the race item in the questionnaire. Data for both Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native 3- to 5-year-olds were not discussed because reporting standards were not met.

5 Includes those with some graduate school but no graduate/professional degree.

6 Includes those who completed high school through equivalency programs, such as a GED program.

Supplemental Information

Table 207.10 (Digest 2020): Number of 3- to 5-year-olds not yet enrolled in kindergarten and percentage participating in home literacy activities with a family member, by type and frequency of activity and selected child and family characteristics: 2012, 2016, and 2019
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