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Statistics show reading to a child regularly can deliver lifelong benefits: greater vocabulary, learning readiness, overall bonding between parent and child and a foundation for success throughout the child's academic career.
But sometimes seeing statistics just isn't enough; parents need help turning guidance into action. This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced a new policy advising pediatricians, during routine well-check appointments, to encourage parents to read to their infants daily.
A unique partnership that took five years to finalize will help turn this policy into tangible tools pediatricians can share with parents to support success. Too Small to Fail, the AAP, Scholastic Inc. and Reach Out and Read will collaborate to raise awareness among pediatricians and parents while also delivering books straight to pediatricians' offices so families have access to new, age-appropriate selections.
30 million-word deficit
If this policy seems overwhelming, consider this staggering statistic: "By four years of age, children in lower-income families tend to have heard more than 30 million fewer words than children in more affluent families," said former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the fourth annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America meeting. "Thirty million. Because they hear fewer words, they learn fewer words. Therefore they begin school with smaller vocabularies and struggle to catch up."
"The word gap leads to an achievement gap that can have lifelong consequences," she added. "Now every child deserves a chance, a fair chance at success in school and that's what Too Small to Fail is all about."
Collaboration for common goal
Too Small to Fail is a joint initiative between the Clinton Foundation and Next Generation focused on helping parents and businesses improve the health and well-being of children up to age 5. Too Small to Fail and the AAP will focus on communicating to their audiences the importance of talking, reading out loud and singing to children from birth to build vocabulary and promote healthy brain development.
Scholastic has donated 500,000 children's books for distribution through Reach Out and Read, a nonprofit that works with medical providers nationwide to promote early reading and deliver books to families at pediatric visits.
Reach Out and Read will also distribute a toolkit to be developed by the AAP, with support from Too Small to Fail, which will equip pediatricians with resources to educate parents on how to use everyday activities to improve communication with their infants and toddlers.
the 5 rs^Pediatricians can promote the "5 Rs" of early education:
- Read together as a daily fun family activity;
- Rhyme, play, talk, sing and cuddle throughout the day;
- Establish and maintain routines and regular times for meals, play and sleeping, which help children know what they can expect and what is expected from them;
- Reward everyday successes, particularly for effort toward worthwhile goals such as helping, realizing that praise from those closest to a child is a very potent reward; and
- Establish relationships that are reciprocal, nurturing, purposeful and enduring, which are the foundation of a healthy early brain and child development.
Tip^Parents to read to an infant:
- Choose a quiet time, when Baby is calm (e.g., before or after nap time, after eating, after bath time and before bedtime)
- Find a quiet location with minimal distractions
- Hold the baby on your lap so she faces the book
- Select short books with bright illustrations
- If the child loses interest, stop. The goal is to create a positive association with reading.