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Study: Live Like a Slob, Have Illiterate Kids

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Ronda Kaysen: Cleanliness is certainly godliness. It might also make a bookworm of your babe.

kids reading at home

In a study aptly titled Order in the House, Anna Johnson and Anne Martin of Columbia Teachers College argue that kids whose parents keep orderly homes have better reading skills than kids whose parents, well, let's be blunt here, are slobs.

The authors looked at a pool of white, middle-class kindergartners and first graders in Ohio. They looked at kids whose mothers had above-average reading skills and those with average reading skills. The kids of high-reading moms had better reading skills if they lived in a clean, orderly home.

Average-reading moms, you're off the hook. All you have to worry about is how often your kid plays with his books. Cleanliness seemed to have no effect on kids of average readers.

"Household order taps a more fundamental characteristic of parents or households, such as maternal industriousness, planning ability, or conscientiousness, that gives rise to both orderliness and better reading skills in children," the authors write.

Orderliness seems to matter only among this one subset -- probably because if you're a mom who reads a lot, you already surround your children with books and read to them at bedtime, so this is the one factor that might vary from one high-reading household to another.

Before I bust out the vacuum cleaner, I ask you this: Do you think a clean house has any effect on reading or is this just rubbish?

next: "We Have Dinner Together Every Night"
3 comments so far | Post a comment now
mommymichelle6 May 23, 2009, 12:33 PM

I think it’s rubbish.:)

I know of several families who have children with wonderful reading abilities. Their homes are a mess primarily because their are books everywhere!

Also, rather than cleaning, these folks would rather read or read to their kids.

Wouldn’t it be nice though if “it” were so simple? All I have to do is keep a clean house and my children will be great readers!

Jill (the other one) May 23, 2009, 5:46 PM

I’m with mommymichelle6. If only it was this simple!
My mother has adult ADD and so the house was almost always something of a disaster. That didn’t stop me from learning to read at the age of three. All four of my mother’s children are very literate, and it’s because, messy as the house was, she took the time to read to us every single day.

Anon May 25, 2009, 11:10 PM

I started reading at age four. Now my daughter is six and is still struggling. My mother kept a house so neat that it still reminds me of the description of Cameron’s house in “Ferris Bueller”: “It’s very beautiful and it’s very cold, and you’re not allowed to touch anything.” My house seems to breed extra papers when I’m not around, and I swear her dolls and such are walking around on their own a’la “Toy Story”, only not putting themselves back like in the movie. So now I’m riddled with guilt, convinced that my poor housekeeping skills (which I can never seem to completely improve) are what’s keeping my kid average and not brilliant.

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