In addition to the usual recommendations of breastfeeding and immunizations, doctors are now telling parents to read aloud to their infants from birth.
The new policy has been adopted by the American Academy of Pediatrics in attempt to bring attention to the importance brain development, which is argued to occur within the first three years of a child’s life. Reading is believed to to enhance vocabulary and other 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.
This is the first time the academy - which has issued recommendations on how long mothers should nurse their babies and advises parents to keep children away from screens until they are at least 2 - has officially weighed in on early literacy education.
According to The New York Times, research shows that many parents do not read to their children as often as researchers and educators say is crucial to the development of pre-literacy skills that help children succeed once they get to school.
The Times reports:
Reading, as well as talking and singing, is viewed as important in increasing the number of words that children hear in the earliest years of their lives. Nearly two decades ago, an oft-cited study found that by age 3, the children of wealthier professionals have heard words millions more times than have those of less educated, low-income parents, giving the children who have heard more words a distinct advantage in school. New research shows that these gaps emerge as early as 18 months.
According to a federal government survey of children’s health, 60 percent of American children from families with incomes at least 400 percent of the federal poverty threshold ($95,400 for a family of four) are read to daily from birth to 5 years of age, compared with around a third of children from families living below the poverty line, $23,850 for a family of four.
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