boys readingThe boys and I read two extra books last night — we almost skipped it altogether as it was late and we were beat from a long day and yada, yada, yada…you know the drill. But reviewing this data changed me, yet again. I knew some of the value of reading to young children before I had kids because of my experiences being a teacher and my training in pediatrics but the refreshers provided this week only compound my interest in screaming the value of reading from the rooftops.

It’s NEVER too early to start reading to your baby. Reading aloud before bed is always the right thing to do.

This week The Clinton Foundation with Too Small To Fail, The American Academy of Pediatrics, Reach Out And Read, and Scholastic got serious about ensuring our country takes reading seriously right out of the gate. For the first time ever the groups have come together to proclaim that parents should start reading to children “as early as you can” after birth. The new policy and partnership emphasizes the need for early reading to all infants and children while also emphasizing the necessity that all pediatricians promote this healthy habit at birth and through all preschool doctor visits. Profound health disparities currently exist for US children and book time. I suspect the numbers will surprise you.

It’s a no-brainer to most parents I talk with that reading books enhances development, literacy, and school readiness. What may surprise you is that reading has also been found to enhance the relationship between a child and parent. Reading books (or even the newspaper) to your infant from day one can have profound effects on how they live, how they talk, and how they learn — the impact extends well into adulthood. From the very beginning, though, some children are missing out. Children from low-income families hear fewer words in early childhood and know fewer words by 3 years of age creating the “word gap” early in their lives. The more words a child hears during early, critical times for language development, the more they’ll know. And although reading books can be a great resource to introduce an expansive, enriched vocabulary, less than 1/2 of children are read aloud to in this country every day.

All families face issues of limited time, limited parental understanding of the key role of reading aloud, and competition for the child’s interest and attention from other sources of entertainment ~  The American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications And Media ( 2011)

Why To Get Serious About Reading Books

  • Early, daily reading builds language, literacy, and emotional skills for your children. In addition reading with children is a way to form a healthy relationships between parents and children. The strength of the parent-child relationship has been found to be a major indicator of child’s successful development later in life. Reading books develops this relationship! Double bonus. It’s never too early to start reading to your baby – and although all families are challenged to find time to read it will always be worth your effort no matter if your baby is 8 pounds or 80.
  • In the US, 1/3 of kindergarteners start school without language skills they need. These language skills are acquired from listening, reading, singing, and imitating. Research has found that children from lower income families hear less words than children with more resources and are thus exposed to more limited vocabulary. We want to prime all children for successful book-life-smarts. We must encourage all parents to use those big, SAT-words whenever they can! Reading books can improve the exposure to different words, different sounds, and new language.
  • Early reading skills lay down part of the groundwork for school success throughout life. Reading success by 3rd grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. Yet 80% (4 out of 5!) of those children living under the poverty line fail to develop reading skills they need by the end of third grade. This has got to change.

New Policy And Partnership

This week’s policy, Literacy Promotion, is designed to close the “word gap.” In essence the effort is meant to eradicate disparities of opportunity between advantaged and less-advantaged-children by ensuring that parents and pediatricians discuss how benefits of reading “as early as you can” universally.  The non-profit, private, institutional partnership accelerates resources to get books into every parent’s hand and resources into every pediatrician’s hands to prioritize these developmental boosters.

Reading fosters health relationships between parents-children and earlier age initiation of reading aloud with children has been associated with better preschool language skills and interest in reading. Reading builds a bond with young children during a crucial and critical period of their development.

Fewer than ½ of kids in US are read to; children below poverty level less likely to be read to. The policy highlighted articulated this stating that:

“Dramatic differences [exist] in early language exposure of 1 and 2 year-olds in low-income families compared with children in high-income. Cognitive and linguistic differences in children from talkative versus taciturn families were impressive by 3 years of age and persisted into school age.”

This summer, make it a priority to read to your infant, young child, or older child each and every night. Visit the library every week if you can. If you’ve got a child under age 5, remember how these early years are critical for developing a stable bond, an excitement about language, and the foundation for learning and school/employment success for a lifetime. The 5 R’s summarize this beautifully:

5 “R’s” For Every Parent

  1. Read together as family. That can start out being you reading aloud, but quickly will change as you enter toddlerhood. Have toddlers point to objects in the book, have them imitate the sounds the animals in the book. Early literacy skills start from day one and by age 2 kids will begin to finish the sentences for you in books! All you have to say is, “The cow jumped,” and they scream, “over the moon!” Don’t worry about reading books over and over again if kids delight in it. That repetition is powerful.
  2. Rhyming, playing,  talking throughout day. Narrate your day as a parent or caregiver. Talk about what you’re cooking, sing along with music, make up stories. Include your child in an audio tour of every day.
  3. Routines and regular times for meals, play, sleep. Consistency really is the secret sauce to parenting, in my mind. Allow children to thrive and love to learn by having a good understanding of what to expect.
  4. Rewards for everyday success. Don’t forget to find accomplishments in the everyday tasks. Help children understand their remarkable accomplishments — even when seemingly requisite — celebrate readily when you 3 year-old remembers to turn off the light! Help them see their evolving skills and independence through your notice and acknowledgment.
  5. Relationships that are reciprocal are the foundation of healthy brain development. Scoop up the love your child gives you and dish it out, too. Know that bonding through books is a phenomenal way to build trust and your bond that is critical for your child’s longterm thriving.