What Works for Parent and Child Interactions?

What Works for Third Grade Reading: Parent and Child Interactions considers why regular, loving, back and forth interactions between young children and their parents matter for third grade reading proficiency, outlines the connection with other factors that impact early literacy, and highlights options that have been shown to improve the frequency and quality of healthy parent-child interactions. It is one of 12 working papers that offer research-based policy, practice and program options to states and communities working to improve third grade reading proficiency.

Positive, responsive interactions between parents or other primary caregivers and young children are the foundation of children’s cognitive, language, and social-emotional development, all of which are essential for early literacy. Starting at birth, positive parent-child interactions promote attachment and a sense of security for children—parents respond to babies’ cries, and babies learn to expect a soothing response when they express their needs.1 Positive parent-child interactions can buffer children from negative psychological and hormonal impacts of toxic stress.2 However, family stress also can result in parent-child interactions that are less positive and/or less frequent, which impacts child development and long-term outcomes.3

What Works for Third Grade Reading is a collection of 12 working papers that address whole-child, birth-to-age-eight factors that support children’s optimal development and improve reading proficiency. The resource was produced by the Institute for Child Success and the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation, in collaboration with BEST NC, to support the work of the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading (Pathways) initiative.

Pathways is bringing together diverse leaders working across disciplines, sectors, systems, and political ideologies to define a common vision, shared measures of success and coordinated strategies that support children’s optimal development beginning at birth. Pathways is an initiative of the NC Early Childhood Foundation in collaboration with NC Child, the North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., and BEST NC.

Our webinar provides an overview of the working papers and shares other Pathways resources that may assist communities in improving outcomes for young children.


1Positive Parent-Child Relationships. (2013). (p. 3).  Administration for Children and Families & National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement. Retrieved from  http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-system/family/docs/parent-child-relationships.pdf

2 Impact of Toxic Stress on Individuals and Communities, op cit.

3 Impact of Toxic Stress on Individuals and Communities, op cit.