NEW YORK – An infant checkup with your pediatrician may now come with advice to read aloud to your baby — and a children’s book.
Pediatricians should educate parents about the benefits of reading with their children starting in infancy, the American Academy of Pediatrics said Tuesday in a policy statement.
Research on early childhood and brain development has long shown the importance of speaking and reading to infants for later success. Disparities in the vocabulary shared with children in low-income families, who hear 30 million fewer words by the time they’re 3 years old, has been cited by researchers as a leading cause of the gap in school success.
Integrating this information in the medical setting may close the gap, said Dipesh Navsaria, medical director of the Wisconsin chapter of Reach Out & Read, a Boston-based group that trains medical providers to give advice to parents on reading and provides books to send home with parents.
To promote the importance of reading aloud to children from birth, the doctors’ group is joining with the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail program, book publisher Scholastic Inc. and Reach Out & Read, a nonprofit.
“These first days, weeks and months of life are critical,” Hillary Clinton said Tuesday. “Those of you who have ever read a bedtime story or had a conversation with a toddler or engaged in singing songs know what it’s like when those faces light up.”
Reading aloud increases parent-child interactions, improves the language skills of children and raises a child’s readiness for school, according to research cited by the pediatricians’ policy recommendation.
Scholastic will donate 500,000 books to the effort. The books will be in English and Spanish and designed to be easy for children to hold, said Kyle Good, a spokesman for Scholastic, which is based in New York.
“We want every child to be a great reader, and we know it starts very early. The brain develops more rapidly between ages 0 and 3 than any other time of their lives,” Good said.
Just telling parents to read with their child isn’t enough, said Navsaria, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. “They may need some assistance in figuring out how to do that,” Navsaria said in a telephone interview. “It’s not just a book giveaway.”
Too Small to Fail, a partnership between the Clinton Foundation and the San Francisco nonprofit Next Generation, will develop materials for parents with the American Academy of Pediatrics.