New research has confirmed what many parents quietly fear: Firstborn children get more attention, and it does make a difference. A new study by economist Joseph Price of Brigham Young University shows that on average first-born children receive 3,000 extra "quality" hours from ages 4 to 13, when other siblings are in the picture. That's an average of 25 extra minutes per day with Mom, and 20 extra minutes a day with Dad, across a nine-year span. The difference helps explain findings that show firstborn children get better test scores, more education and higher-paying jobs.
Quality time is defined as minutes spent together on such activities as homework, meals, reading, playing, sports, arts and conversation. In every category, firstborns got more, according to the study. Price pointed out that while parents generally spend equal time with their children on any given day, they tend to spend less time as the family ages. For example, mothers in two-child families spend 136 minutes per day with their firstborn at age 7. By the time the second child is 7, they spend 114 minutes. And, of course, younger siblings are often more interested in spending time with their older brothers and sisters than with their parents.
Birth order differences were greatest in activities Price thought were the most important: reading and playing together. The short answer for parents is, "Keep reading to your children." Library staff can help find read-aloud books that will appeal to a variety of ages. Making time to read to and play with children really does make difference in their ultimate success. The time to invest is now, and the activity can be fun for everyone.
Here are some recommended Read-Alouds for families with older children:
No talking The noisy fifth grade boys of Laketon Elementary School challenge the equally loud fifth grade girls to a "no talking" contest.Clements, Andrew, 1949- J CLEMENT
The last girls of Pompeii In Pompeii, in the summer of A.D. 79, Julia and Mitka appear to lead opposite lives. Julia is the daughter of a wealthy ship-builder; Mitka is an orphan. Julia bears the Curse of Venus, a withered arm; Mitka's beauty turns heads. Julia is free; Mitka is her slave. Then Julia learns that her parents are planning to put her in the service of the Temple of Damia, the center of a cultish new religion, and Mitka will be sold to an awful man who plans to make her his concubine. But when Mt. Vesuvius erupts, Julia's and Mitka's fates are forever altered, forcing them both to face the true meaning of freedom.Lasky, Kathryn. J LASKY
The Neddiad : how Neddie took the train, went to Hollywood, and saved civilization Young Neddie goes on a life-changing and epic journey in this original and hilarious story in which Neddie, three good friends, a shaman, a ghost, and a little maneuver known as the French substitution determine the fate of the world.Pinkwater, Daniel Manus, 1941- J PINKWAT
Garden of the purple dragon In China during the Han Dynasty, young Ping, doubting that she is the true dragonkeeper, struggles to care for the baby dragon, Kai, in the desolate mountains of Tai Shan, until fate leads her back to the Imperial Palace and the Garden of the Purple Dragon, but even in the safety of the palace, enemies abound and tempt her to try to escape her destiny.Wilkinson, Carole. J WILKINS
For more ideas check out The read-aloud handbook by Jim Trelease. 6th ed., Completely rev. and updated 2006-2007. Trelease literally "wrote the book" on reading aloud, and has great recommendations for families with kids of various ages, both girls and boys.