June 26, 2014
By Amy Graff
Reading Go Dog Go to your 6 month old might seem like wasted time because she’s more likely to eat the book than help you turn the pages, but a statement released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) this week says reading in the early years is essential. Reading out loud gets parents talking to their babies and the sound of an adult’s voice stimulates that tiny yet rapidly growing brain. In the statement, the academy advises pediatricians to tell parents to read books to their children from birth.
Reading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development, which, in turn, builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime. Research shows that a child’s brain develops faster between 0 and 3 than at any other time in life, making the early years a critical time for babies to hear rich oral language. The more words children hear directed at them by parents and caregivers, the more they learn.
While many babies are read Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar every night before bed, others never get a chance to “pat the bunny.” Studies reveal that children from low-income, less-educated families have significantly fewer books than their more affluent peers. By age 4, children in poverty hear 30 million fewer words than those in higher-income households. These dramatic gaps result in significant learning disadvantages that persist into adulthood. The AAP hopes the new guidelines will encourage all parents to start reading from day one.
Research shows that when pediatricians talk with parents about reading, moms and dads are more likely to fill their home with books and read. Also, to help get more parents reading, the AAP is partnering with organizations such as Scholastic and Too Small to Fail to help get reading materials to new families who need books the most.
This is the first time the AAP has made a recommendation on children’s literary education and it seems the timing might be just right as more and more parents are leaning on screens and electronic gadget to occupy their babies. “The reality of today’s world is that we’re competing with portable digital media,” Dr. Alanna Levine, a pediatrician in Orangeburg, N.Y., told The New York Times. “So you really want to arm parents with tools and rationale behind it about why it’s important to stick to the basics of things like books.”