This research synthesis examines whether the association between print exposure and components of reading grows stronger across development. We meta-analyzed 99 studies (N = 7,669) that focused on leisure time reading of (a) preschoolers and kindergartners, (b) children attending Grades 1-12, and (c) college and university students. For all measures in the outcome domains of reading comprehension and technical reading and spelling, moderate to strong correlations with print exposure were found. The outcomes support an upward spiral of causality: Children who are more proficient in comprehension and technical reading and spelling skills read more; because of more print exposure, their comprehension and technical reading and spelling skills improved more with each year of education. For example, in preschool and kindergarten print exposure explained 12% of the variance in oral language skills, in primary school 13%, in middle school 19%, in high school 30%, and in college and university 34%. Moderate associations of print exposure with academic achievement indicate that frequent readers are more successful students. Interestingly, poor readers also appear to benefit from independent leisure time reading. We conclude that shared book reading to preconventional readers may be part of a continuum of out-of-school reading experiences that facilitate children's language, reading, and spelling achievement throughout their development.
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