Reading is fundamental. One can vaccinate children against ignorance by reading books. It is an activity every parent should be doing everyday to encourage stronger family ties and advance a child’s learning. Reading to children provides a larger, stronger, vocabulary as a method of preparing them for kindergarten. The time to begin is when they are infants, around six months of age.
This is information currently being given to pediatric physicians from the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Early Childhood. Dr. Pamela High, a professor at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, explained in a unique phrase, it is recommended as a strategy to inoculate children against illiteracy. Another recommendation is for medical students entering pediatrics to promote literacy as part of their training.
High went further in her statements by explaining that promoting literacy needs to be a primary ingredient in the pediatric care of children. Less the 50 percent of children are being read to by anyone in their families, and this has not varied much since 2003. It is an imperative message of public health for all parents, in all income categories, and is easily accomplished.
One out of every three children in America do not have the language skills they need to read well by the time they enter kindergarten. It is a disadvantage from which it is difficult to recover. A third grader’s reading skill is an influential predictor of whether or not they will graduate from high school and be successful in a career choice. With books, children are armed with an immunity to illiteracy, the vaccine of knowledge.
An interesting statistic concerns the fact that children in poverty hear 30 million fewer words than children whose parents are in higher wage groups by the time they are four-years-old. Even if children do not understand the words a parent is reading to them when they are infants and toddlers, a bond created between them offers a nurturing background promoting emotional and social growth during a favorable time for the child. Reading to an infant can form a base for future language and language skill development. Reading is an instrument, a way to vaccinate children with book knowledge and an incurable desire to read.
It is important for parents to be their child’s first teacher, to vaccinate them with a reading virus, so to speak, is priceless. Pediatricians can be role models and offer more as a physician by assisting parents with introducing a child to reading. One avenue of success is handing out age and language appropriate books during a well child check-up. Time spent with a parent reading to their child during an office visit may offer clues as to how to improve the dynamic between them and improve the child’s reading skills.
The Reach Out and Read Program is a not-for-profit organization promoting literacy and academic preparedness in pediatric offices in all 50 states. They provide free books to parents for their children and offer guidance about reading aloud to their children. A reading program in Louisville, Kentucky offers a 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Challenge as a technique to encourage parents and their children to read more together. This presentation is a modified version of the Reach Out and Read program.
Several tips to maximize a reading experience is to not just concentrate on the story, but also to educate a child about colors, numbers, sounding out words and thinking about what happens in the story as a means of conveying critical thinking thought processes. Sharing book-time with their children a parent can have a healthy impact on the child’s language, vocabulary, and eventually the scope of their reading.
Pediatricians are the ultimate role-models for parents in this endeavor. As doctors, pediatricians are concerned with the entire well-being of a child, not only their health status, but also their social growth. Books are the needle of knowledge and pediatricians can help vaccinate children who visit them on a regular and consistent basis.
By Andy Towle