ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (3): 556-579.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.00556

• Meta-Analysis • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Associations between home literacy environment and children’s receptive vocabulary: A meta-analysis

LIU Haidan1, LI Minyi2()   

  1. 1Faculty of Education, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an 710062, China
    2Faculty of Education, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • Received:2020-11-16 Online:2022-03-15 Published:2022-01-25
  • Contact: LI Minyi


Home literacy environment (HLE) refers to a variety of resources and opportunities provided to children as well as the parental skills, abilities, dispositions, and resources that determine the provision of such opportunities for children. For more than half a century, a large body of studies have shown that HLE can significantly promote children’s receptive vocabulary development. However, the blurry operationalization of HLE’s construct and the inconsistency of effect sizes (ESs) in recent studies have made it difficult to understand what really works for children’s receptive vocabulary development at home. This meta-analysis systematically reviewed empirical studies published from 1990 to 2021 regarding the relationships between these two variables in order to clarify HLE’s construct, investigate the main effects, and explore potential moderators.

Through literature review, we found that HLE was usually conceptualized from either the perspective of ecological system theory or interaction theory. Ecological system theory was more widely adopted by researchers, which involved home literacy resources, motivational atmosphere, and literacy activities. Next, we completed a comprehensive search of peer-reviewed published research, and 84 articles with 212 effect sizes and 65,550 children were finally included. We used CMA 3.0 for statistical analysis and results showed that: (1) Except for the age children began to be read to, there was no publication bias in the ESs of HLE and other sub-constructs or items. (2) Results of random effects model indicated a significant, moderate relation between HLE and children’s receptive vocabulary development, r=0.31, p<0.01. Among sub-constructs, items related to shared reading, i.e., the number of children’s books, the frequency of shared reading, and the frequency of children’s reading request demonstrated the highest ESs, followed by motivational atmosphere, including parents’ literacy beliefs and parents’ own reading habits. As for literacy activities, the ESs of informal literacy activities were low but significant, while formal literacy activities were not associated with children’s receptive vocabulary development. (3) As the ESs of HLE and the frequency of shared reading had a high level of heterogeneity, we used meta-regression to explore whether time periods, cultural backgrounds, child’s age and measurement methods were potential moderators. Results suggested that the ESs of HLE decreased significantly across time periods. One possible explanation was that the influx of multimedia has significantly changed HLE, and the other may lie in that the time children spent in pre-primary schools has increased significantly. It was also found that the ESs of the frequency of shared reading were stable during past 30 years, which supported previous literature that interactive reading between adults and children was an effective way for children’s receptive vocabulary development. The moderating effects of measurement methods were different for HLE and the frequency of shared reading. Specifically, the ESs of HLE obtained by questionnaires and the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment did not lead to significant differences, while the ESs of the frequency of shared reading obtained by Children’s Title Checklist (CTC) were significantly higher than those obtained by questionnaires. We found that except for problems in understanding deviation, difficulty in recall, and social desirability effect, researchers may have different understandings of CTC measurements over time. Lastly, no moderating effects of cultural backgrounds or child’s age were detected.

Taken altogether, this study supports previous literature that HLE is positively correlated with children’s receptive vocabulary, especially resources and opportunities related to shared reading. Findings also suggest that HLE is a changing and multifaceted construct and more research is needed to extend its conceptualization, especially tech-enabled literacy practices. Furthermore, researchers should also pay more attention to cultural differences in HLE and employ cross-cultural perspectives to improve the reliability and validity of measurements. All these would help advance future HLE research and practice.

Key words: Home literacy environment (HLE), shared reading, receptive vocabulary, meta-analysis

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