The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement on Tuesday recommending that parents read aloud to their children beginning in infancy. This, they emphasize, will help prepare young minds for language development and future academic success. CBS News reported that Dr. Jill Fussell, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences told Healthy Children Magazine:
“Parents don’t always think of giving books to infants. But even young infants can visually attend to book pages with black-and-white patterns or with bright, contrasting colors for short time periods.”
The academy added that reading to children also can”enhance parent-child relationships and prepare young minds to learn language and early literacy skills”.
In order to practice what they preach, the group is partnering with the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail program, children’s books publisher, Scholastic, Inc., and a group called Reach out and Read. This group works with doctors to distribute books and encourage early reading.
The academy, according to its policy statement, recommends that all pediatric providers, beginning in infancy and continuing at least until kindergarten support the policy by advising all parents of this recommendation; counseling parents about appropriate shared-reading activities; providing developmentally appropriate books; using a creative spectrum of options to to support and promote these efforts; and partnering with advocates to influence national messaging and policies
The AAP supports federal and state funding for children’s books which can then be provided at pediatric health supervision visits to disadvantaged children. Dennis Thompson, reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, writes that Dr. Pamela High, author of the new policy statement says that this will “immunize their children against illiteracy”.
Dr. High is the director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Providence, R.I. and is a professor at Brown University. Additionally, High says that literacy promotion should be a part of residency training for any pediatric medical student.
“This is the first time the AAP has called out literacy promotion as being an essential component of primary care pediatric practice,” High said. “Fewer than half of children are being read to every day by their families, and that number hasn’t really changed since 2003. It’s a public health message to parents of all income groups, that this early shared reading is both fun and rewarding.”
One of every three US children enters kindergarten with no reading readiness and two-thirds of US children do not develop reading proficiency by third grade. Reading gives children a head start when it comes to literacy. Even infants can gain spoken words and sounds that will be their platform for future language and literacy development.
Children who hear words spoken will add more words to their vocabulary. The nurturing component alone has the result of promoting social and emotional development. About 34% of children under the age of six who live in families at poverty level or lower are read to daily. In families which are 400% or more above poverty level, 60% of children have daily reading interactions.