Increasingly, science is showing us that important parts of brain development occur within the first three years of a child’s life, and that reading to children enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills. After examining all of the evidence, this was the recent conclusion of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP represents 62,000 pediatricians in the USA. The AAP also recently advised parents to keep their children away from electronic screens until at least age 2.
I think that this is really good advice and I strongly encourage all of my parents and grandparents to follow it. Daily reading sessions should be considered a fun family activity beginning from infancy. Unfortunately, research shows that many parents do not read to their children often enough to enable them to develop pre-literacy skills that help children succeed once they get to school.
Reading, as well as talking and singing, is essential to increase the number of words that children hear in the earliest years of their lives. Children who are read to during infancy and preschool years have better language skills when they start school and are more interested in reading. In addition, parents who spend time reading to their children create nurturing relationships, which is important for a child’s cognitive, language and social-emotional development. Because oral language and vocabulary are highly connected to reading comprehension, children who are read too less often are disadvantaged and face increasing challenges once they enter school and start learning to read. The gap is detectable as early as 18 months, gets bigger and bigger over time, and is very difficult to undo.
So the take-home message this week is to make time to read to your infant, from a paper book, every single day for at least 15 minutes. The benefits make it worth every minute. Happy reading (and singing)!