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Slide Slam N7

Parental education is correlated with children’s reading but not rhythm perception skills

Slide Slam Session N, Thursday, October 7, 2021, 2:30 - 4:30 pm PDT Log In to set Timezone

John Solorzano-Restrepo1, Vishal J. Thakkar1, Abby S. Engelhart1, Nathania Davis1, Tracy M. Centanni1; 1Texas Christian University

Although reading is a critical skill in the modern world, a significant proportion of individuals fail to reach fluency. There are several well-studied risk factors for reading disability. Biological risk factors, such as dyslexia-susceptibility genes, are thought to impact reading by altering brain development, while environmental risk factors, such as socioeconomic status (SES) have a multi-faceted impact on reading. Children of highly educated parents often experience higher-quality linguistic stimulation, which facilitates literacy and may also impact neural connections. One aspect of SES, Parental education (PE), has been associated with increased baseline cognitive abilities in children, further supporting the importance of this early environmental influence. In addition, there has recently been increased interest in other cognitive factors that may subserve reading. For example, a growing body of evidence suggests a relationship between reading and rhythm perception. However, it is currently unknown how these variables influence each other and whether baseline cognitive abilities, such as rhythm perception, could influence the impact of PE on reading. In the current study, we recruited 68 children (age 9.89 ± 1.46) and collected data in a fully virtual format during the COVID-19 pandemic. Children completed an assessment session as well as several online activities at their own pace, including a rhythm matching task, while parents completed a family member’s background survey. We were able to replicate prior studies reporting significant correlations between reading skills and PE, and partially replicated prior findings of a relationship between reading skills and rhythm matching skills. However, we found no correlation between rhythm matching and PE. We utilized partial correlations using rhythm as a covariate and found that rhythm did not mediate the relationship between PE and reading. Finally, there was a significant positive correlation between rhythm processing and age. While we did not quantify music training, this finding was expected given that most children in the US receive at least some mandatory music training as they leave elementary school, which should improve their performance in rhythm perception. Our results support prior work suggesting that while PE is significantly correlated with reading outcomes in young children, PE may not influence rhythm perception in a similar way. These findings suggest PE may be critical for the acquisition of reading but not rhythm skills in children. If these results are confirmed, they may provide support for early music and rhythm training to improve literacy outcomes in children from lower SES homes.

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