Parents bringing infants to the doctor for
routine immunizations and growth charting can expect to hear new advice from
their paediatrician: Read to your baby every day.
Story time routines benefit even the
youngest children, helping them to build vocabulary and communication skills
critical to later success in school, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
said on Tuesday in a new policy statement.
For babies, literacy can begin with cuddle
time and brightly coloured books, the largest group of U.S. paediatricians
advised. Rhyming, playing, talking and singing are among the age-appropriate
activities promoting early literacy.
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"You're not teaching a two-month-old
how to read," said Dr. Danette Glassy, a paediatrician near Seattle,
Washington, who co-chairs the AAP's Council on Early Childhood. "Your
sitting down with them makes your baby smart and wise."
Experts say reading or storytelling in
early life predicts how well children will do when they enter preschool, which
translates to how they do when they start kindergarten, associated with
achievement later in school and in life.
Yet the 2011-2012 National Survey of
Children's Health found that only one-third of U.S. children living in poverty
were read to daily from birth to five years of age.
By comparison, the survey found that 60
percent of children from higher-income families received daily reading time. Paediatricians
see room for improvement at all income levels.
"Even the most affluent family can be
distracted from interacting with their baby," Glassy said. "They can
entertain their babies in non-human ways with all kinds of gadgets and gizmos
that interfere with their development."
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In previous recommendations, the AAP has
discouraged parents from exposing children under the age of two years to
television and other forms of screen media entertainment, which can be
detrimental to language development.
Glassy said encouraging reading to
children from infancy will help the organization's 62,000 paediatricians
promote an alternative way for families to pass time with young children.
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