Reading to babies, toddlers, and kids is good medicine

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but a book a day from the doctor can help kids learn, communicate, and stay healthy throughout their lifetimes.

In June the Los Angeles Times reported on a policy statement from The American Academy of Pediatrics, urging pediatricians to “prescribe” the daily use of books to “build up the brains of their youngest patients.” It even suggests that in some circumstances pediatricians provide books.

“Literacy Promotion: An Essential Component of Primary Care Pediatric Practice” outlines the value of reading “interventions” and highlights myriad lifelong benefits of early reading. The policy statement abstract opens by stating that “Reading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development, which, in turn, builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.” The report also notes that every year “more than 1 in 3 American children start kindergarten without the language skills they need to learn to read.” The document further provides compelling data correlating early literacy with better physical health in adulthood due to factors such as diminished disease knowledge.

The policy statement advocates, in some cases, providing books at pediatric visits and offering guidance to parents that encourages reading with children. Doing so, the statement concludes, “directly affects language development, a major factor in school readiness, during the critical period of early brain development.”

Early reading experiences imprint a child. The one-on-one time with parents deepens the bond and also associates love with learning. Making it fun adds to the positive connections. For example, the Jog, Frog, Jog UnderCover Book iOS app is a learn-to-read adventure packed with surprises. Kids can hear a story and follow along, read a story, sing a song, or play a game.

An 18-book Start-to-Read! set that comes with 15 beginning readers—5 each of 3 different levels—3 read-along and song CDs, 3 comprehension workbooks to reinforce skills, and 3 Parent Guides, offers dozens of options for read-and-play time.

Even toddlers, who are still a few pages away from actually reading, can delight in learning and reinforcing readiness skills such as sounds, shapes, and colors, as they also become familiar with the tactile and multi-sensory pleasure of books. Series such as Watch Me Color (Family Farm, Wavy Water, Friendly Forest, and Zippy Zoo), By First Book of Coloring, and the Bubbles Workbooks, help introduce and develop important reading readiness skills.

Kids of all ages gain much from a healthy dose of daily reading that builds their skills and overall well-being.