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Reading to your child: How early is early?

Reading leads to lifelong success. Period.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released numerous statements regarding the promotion of parent-child reading among families. The statements and the relevant studies supporting this recommendation point to significant benefits of reading to a child for his or her development. 

But how soon after a child is born should a parent read to the child?  The answer is - as soon as the first three months and continuing on to at least about five years of age (and beyond).  Many parents even read to the unborn child in the womb. This activity encourages a deeper bond between the parent and the baby. 

Reading to a baby promotes a deeper connection between the parent and the child from voice pattern recognition (which offers a soothing effect) and facilitation of brain activity. Reading to a child from birth to about 5 years old has proven to be effective in promoting socio-emotional skills, language literacy, visual imagery and narrative comprehension.  

Reading aloud to a child and helping them transcend to his or her independent reading will also develop early success in spatial reasoning and working memory. Such earlier accomplishment from reading efforts with parents and guardians leads to success in a child’s social and academic environments resulting in a very competitive edge and favorable ripple effect in school, with friends and the later stages of young adulthood as they embark into working careers. 

The AAP highlights the following (5R’s)

Reading together as a daily, fun, family activity

Rhyming, playing, talking, singing, and cuddling together often throughout the day

Building Routines for meals, play, and sleep, which help children know what to expect and what is expected of them

Giving Rewards for everyday successes (especially for effort toward goals like helping), understanding that praise from those closest to a child is a very potent reward

Developing Relationships that are nurturing, reciprocal, purposeful, and lasting, which are the foundations of healthy early brain and child development

As a renewed form of activity within the household, parents and guardians are encouraged to include reading as part of their child’s daily routine.  It is a healthy alternative and a complement to electronic gadgets and equipment such as video consoles, tablets and smart phones.

Visits to the local library and attending book-reading events as part of the child’s weekly routine may catapult his or her reading into a lifelong habit.

It is never too early or never too late to start encouraging a lifelong habit of reading to young children.

Marigold Castillo, M.D. Dr. Marigold "Dr. Gold" Castillo is a board-certified physician specialist practicing in Bayside, New York. She is an assistant professor of Pediatrics at Zucker School of Medicine of Hofstra/ Northwell. She focuses on personalized care in general pediatrics and adolescent medicine.

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