Reading to young children at home can play a big role in developing their English language skills, a new study has found.
The research has appeared in Learning and Instruction.
Because letters in the English alphabet sound different for various words, it's a harder language to master than Greek or Finnish, for example, which have more consistent letter sounds, or phonemes.
"It's not only purchasing the book and perhaps reading to the child, and the child having a passive role in this interaction," Discovery News quoted George Georgiou, an educational psychologist at the University of Alberta who contributed to the study, as saying.
He went on: "It should be very active. You should be asking questions to your child: Would you change the title of the book? What do you think about the character names? What about the events of the story?"
The inconsistent letter-to-phoneme relationship also occurs in Chinese.
Georgiou said: "The paradigm of Chinese, we know, is that because of the extreme difficult nature of the language, the kids go to school earlier.
"They start teaching them these simple characters early on."
But extra time for kids at home can improve their reading skills.
Georgiou said: "If you can afford to spend 20 minutes with your child, that would be extremely helpful.
"I don't think there's a single parent who can't devote reading 20 minutes to their children, and it doesn't even have to happen every single day; it could be three times a week."
Educational computer reading programs can also be used for the purpose.
Linda Robinson, assistant director of Center of Best Practices for Early Childhood at Western Illinois University, said: "We've found that (computer reading programs) help increase all aspects of literacy and concepts of print for very young children if they're using software that's interactive and not just something they're sitting there listening to."
But Robinson believes technology can't fully replace the reading time given to a child at home.
Georgiou corroborated: "I think it's more the physical presence of the parents and the natural interaction with them that makes the difference."