Early Childhood Education Journal

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 111–119 | Cite as

Unique Contributions of Maternal Reading Proficiency to Predicting Children’s Preschool Receptive Vocabulary and Reading Proficiency

  • Linda M. Phillips
  • Stephen P. Norris
  • Denyse V. Hayward
  • Meridith A. Lovell


This study investigated whether mothers’ measured reading proficiency and their educational level predict, over and above each other, their children’s receptive vocabulary and reading proficiency when confounding factors of speaking a minority language, ethnicity, number of children in the family, and marital and employment status are controlled. The sample included 155 children (aged 3–5 years) and their mothers (aged 20–44 years) of low income and low educational background from Western Canada. Findings support the conclusion that maternal reading level predicts both their children’s receptive vocabulary and reading proficiency prior to schooling after maternal education is taken into account. The findings also show, after the effects of maternal reading ability are removed, maternal education predicts their children’s reading ability prior to school but not their receptive vocabulary proficiency. Thus, maternal reading proficiency and maternal education appear not to serve as proxies for each other, and the use of both variables should be used in studies where children’s reading and receptive vocabulary proficiency are dependent measures. Early childhood educators dedicated to the improvement of the language and literacy levels of children in their care may consider the implementation of programs that focus on improving mothers’ reading proficiency whereby their children’s levels also improve. Early childhood education is the prime time to provide a richer and more fruitful approach to reduce the persistent knowledge gap of children from low-income and low-educational background families.


Early childhood language and literacy Mothers’ reading proficiency Maternal literacy Family literacy Preschool language and literacy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda M. Phillips
    • 1
  • Stephen P. Norris
    • 2
  • Denyse V. Hayward
    • 3
  • Meridith A. Lovell
    • 1
  1. 1.Canadian Centre for Research on Literacy, Faculty of EducationUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Educational Policy Studies, Faculty of EducationUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Department of Educational Psychology, Faculty of EducationUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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