Good Night Moon, Little Gorilla, I am a Bunny, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, I Love You Stinky Face. Just a few of the books I have read to my boys countless times over the past 8 years. I remember how much I loved it when my parents read to me growing up and we wanted to start similar routines with our boys right from the start, thinking more about the memories, not knowing about the other benefits of reading during infancy.
Reading during infancy is great for bonding, as well as promoting early literacy and stimulating early brain development. Many studies have shown that reading to children during infancy and preschool years is strongly associated with higher language skills at school entrance and increased interest in reading. Third grade reading level is a good prognostic indicator of high school graduation and career success. Unfortunately, 2/3rd of all U.S. children and 80% of children living in poverty are unable to read proficiently by the end of third grade.
Scientists did a study where they went into the homes of 42 families and observed caregivers talking and interacting with their infants and small children for an hour, once a month for 2 ½ years. They found that in four years, the average child in a professional family would accumulate experience with almost 45 million words, the average child in a working-class family, 26 million words, and the average child on welfare, 13 million words. In other words, by the time these children are 3 years old, there is a 30 million-word gap between children of professional families and children of families on welfare.
The evidence is clear, read to your child, talk to your child, listen to your child, use positive words to praise positive behavior. If your children are grown – contact your local school, they are always looking for volunteers to help children with reading.
My husband and I always read before naptime and bed time, but I have found that sitting down with my energetic and crazy little boys during the day, when things are getting a little out of hand, acts as a “reboot” for them and me. For example, yesterday I had my 6 year old at the pediatrician for a well child visit. He and my 3 year old were bouncing off the walls and driving me crazy while we were waiting for the doctor. Thankfully, my 6 year old spotted the bookrack and asked me read the Magic School Bus book. The boys sat down next to me and as I started to read, a peace fell over the room – for all of us. I have now tried to remember a to throw a few books in my bag when we are going out and about, especially to restaurants!
Sarah Denny, MD, FAAP, works as an attending physician in the Section of Emergency Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and as an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
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