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Funny books make parents better readers

09 October 2008

Funny Books

Parents who read humorous books to their children are more likely to talk about the story in ways that could help their child become a better reader in later life, according to a new study by the University.

Led by Dr Merideth Gattis of the School of Psychology, the research team compared how book content affected the way that parents read to their children.

As part of the study, parents were asked to read the popular children’s book One Gorgeous Baby, by Martine Oborne and Ingrid Godon, to their child. The book depicts various events in a baby's day, and counts objects from "one lovely smile," up to "ten sticky fingers."

The team found that parents made more abstract comments to their child when reading humorous pages compared to sweet pages. In order to analyse this reaction further, the researchers developed two new books, based on One Gorgeous Baby - a sweet book called One Lovely Baby, and a humorous book called One Funny Baby, and asked parents to read them to their toddlers.

The results were consistent with the previous study. In addition, Dr Gattis and her team found that parents made more comments about disbelief when reading the humorous book, indicating to their toddlers that they did not literally believe sentences such as ‘mummy drank baby's bottle’, or that the ‘ducks said moo.’

Dr Gattis said: "These two studies have highlighted the extra information that children are exposed to when parents read them funny books. Reading humorous books provides an important opportunity for parents to develop their child’s creative thinking skills and introduce them to new and abstract vocabulary, helping them to become good readers in the future."

The children taking part in the research were aged between 18 and 26 months old, and the study is published in the journal Cognitive Science.