In between dispensing advice on breast-feeding and immunizations, doctors will tell parents to read aloud to their infants from birth, under a new policy that the American Academy of Pediatrics will announce on Tuesday.
With the increased recognition that an important part of brain development occurs within the first three years of a child’s life, and that reading to children enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills, the group, which represents 62,000 pediatricians across the country, is asking its members to become powerful advocates for reading aloud, every time a baby visits the doctor.
The focus on early literacy promotion is not just on low-income families:
Numerous studies have measured the importance of reading aloud. However, one 2007 estimate found that fewer than half of young children in the United States are read to on a daily basis. Every year, more than one in three children in the United States starts kindergarten without the language skills required to learn how to read, according to data cited in the new statement.
The problem is particularly pronounced among children born into low-income families, who hear fewer words in early childhood and know fewer words by age 3, the authors write.
But many high-income families also fall short: The 2011 to 2012 National Survey of Children’s Health found that in families with incomes at or below the federal poverty threshold, only 34 percent of children age 5 and under were read to daily. In families whose incomes were 400 percent of the poverty threshold, however, 60 percent of those children were read to daily.
The AAP says that providers should focus on the “5 R’s” of early education:
1. Reading together as a daily fun family activity;
2. Rhyming, playing, talking, singing, and cuddling together throughout the day;
3. Routines and regular times for meals, play, and sleeping, which help children know what they can expect and what is expected from them;
4. Rewards for everyday successes, particularly for effort toward worthwhile goals such as helping, realizing that praise from those closest to a child is a very potent reward; and
5. Relationships that are reciprocal, nurturing, purposeful, and enduring, which are the foundation of a healthy early brain and child development.
Gregory Twachtman has the money quote from the lead author of the policy statement:
“When you think about health care dollars that we’re spending and you’re now talking about immunizing children against illiteracy – reading helps build language skills in young children,” Dr. High said. “Language skills are the best predictor of how well they are going to read when they get to school. How well they read by the end of third grade ends up being the best predictor we have of whether they are going to graduate from high school and go on to be economically successful.”