Unequal home literacy environments between preschool-age boys and girls predict unequal language and preliteracy outcomes

Anders Højen, Anne Sophie Mahler Schmidt, Ida Styrbæk Møller, Linea Flansmose

A favorable home literacy environment for preschool-aged children is related to higher language and preliteracy skills, which, in turn, predict later literacy skills and broader life outcomes. The quality of the home literacy environment is associated with socioeconomic indicators, but some previous research has indicated that also gender differences—favoring girls—exist in children's home literacy environments. The purpose of the present study was to examine gender differences on a range of aspects of home literacy environments provided to 8469 preschool-aged children in Denmark and to determine whether gender differences in home literacy environments mediate relations of gender to language and preliteracy outcomes. Home literacy environment data came from parent-completed questionnaires; child outcome data were obtained using a standardized assessment instrument. The results showed that the home literacy environment provided to boys is poorer on average than that provided to girls. Path models showed that the quality of the home literacy environment significantly mediated the relation of gender to language and preliteracy outcomes, but gender was still significantly directly related to outcomes. Moreover, relations of maternal education and language minority background to language and preliteracy outcomes were mediated by the quality of the home literacy environment. The results suggest that family and healthcare professionals should emphasize to parents the importance of a stimulating home literacy environment for boys and girls alike.

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