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Maternal Literacy Good Gauge of Home Learning Environment

It helps predict cognitive home environment in low-income families

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Maternal literacy level is a more accurate predictor of the cognitive home environment than maternal educational level in low-income families, according to a study in the September issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Cori M. Green, M.D., of the New York University School of Medicine in New York City, and colleagues conducted a study of 369 low-income mothers and their 6-month-old infants. They tested maternal literacy and based maternal educational level on the last completed school grade. Through an office-based interview, they also gathered information on aspects of the cognitive home environment such as verbal responsiveness, shared reading and teaching.

The homes of mothers with a ninth grade or higher literacy level scored higher in more subscales of cognitive home environment, the investigators found. The measure was more specific than the mother's educational level. The authors recommend that direct measures of literacy should be included in studies of low-income families.

"Given the relationship between low literacy level and parenting behaviors known to be related to child outcomes, pediatricians should consider developing strategies to identify mothers with low literacy levels in order to support the cognitive home environments for children of low-literacy parents," the authors write.

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