Limited research exists on family reading practices, the impact of counseling, and book distribution in the first 6 months of life, despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Reach Out and Read promoting shared reading from birth.
To describe infant home reading trajectories and environments in the first year and to assess whether receiving books starting in the newborn period, compared with starting at 6 months, alters these trajectories.
Two study groups were enrolled in a quasi-experimental sequential cohort study; both groups received shared reading counseling starting in the newborn period and completed surveys throughout the first year. The Standard group received books starting at 6 months, whereas the Early Books group received books starting at 2 weeks. Reading trajectories were assessed both overall and between the study groups.
At the 2-week visit, less than half of families in each group had started shared reading with their infant, which rose to >97% by 12 months. Approximately two-thirds of families owned >10 children's books at 2 weeks, which increased to >80% at 12 months. Incorporating shared reading into bedtime routines also increased during the first year. Early versus standard book distribution did not alter these trajectories.
Over the first year of life, families almost universally initiated shared reading and increased the number of books in the home. Reading habits established during this time were maintained in both groups. Literacy promotion beginning at the earliest well-child visits may help establish routines that will persist throughout childhood.