"These findings are exciting because they suggest that reading to young children, beginning even in early infancy, has a lasting effect on language, literacy and early reading skills," said lead author Carolyn Cates, Assistant Professor at New York University (NYU).
"What they're learning when you read with them as infants, still has an effect four years later when they're about to begin elementary school," Cates said.
The findings were presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco.
For the study, mothers and their babies were recruited from the newborn nursery of an urban public hospital, with more than 250 pairs monitored between ages of six months and four and a half years (54 months) for how well they could understand words, and for early literacy and reading skills.
The results highlight the importance of parenting programmes used in pediatric primary care that promote shared book-reading soon after birth, Cates said.