Fort Worth, Texas,
10:52 AM

Doctors Prescribe Reading To Your Child

The DocSmitty offers 5 (horrible) reasons some parents ignore the AAP's advice

Did you know the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) actually has an official stance encouraging pediatricians to talk with their families about the importance of daily, out-loud reading to your children (Literacy Promotion: An Essential Component of Pediatric Primary Care Practice).

Sometimes, when the AAP releases statements like this, that seem like common sense, I have to resist the urge to roll my eyes and tell myself, “Ok, thanks for stating the obvious.”

This one, while perhaps common sense, is very important. 


Despite the fact that I think most parents would agree with the importance of reading to your children, studies show that only about half of children are read to aloud every day. In addition, reading to children sets the stage for their speech development which helps them do better in school. So what are the reasons for not reading to your child?

1. I don’t have time.

We aren’t asking that you read “War and Peace” every night with your 6 month old. I’m hoping for about 5-10 minutes of reading (1-2 short books). Ultimately, if you don’t have that much time then just read for the amount of time that you can, any amount is better than none. Our kids really like to read during meal times as well, it tends to keep them eating and moving and keep their fighting about food to a minimum. If you routinely watch TV during meals, it’s a much better alternative.

2. If they don’t understand, it doesn’t matter.

Reading to your children even before they are speaking is an important part of teaching them language. Babies learn the sounds of language long before they know any words. The number of words a child hears before they start kindergarten is a strong predictor of how well they will do in school. This is why it’s not only important to read to them, you should also spend time talking with them all throughout the day.

3. It’s so boring.

This one I can really sympathize with. There are nights where I feel like I deserve an Oscar for my dramatic performances … but there are also nights where I drone on in monotone and doze off between pages. It’s important to really engage your children as best you can, based upon their age. Have them help you count objects, letters or words on the page. If it’s a book you’ve read 1,000 times, read the wrong word and let them correct you (“Ohhhh … daaaadd, you’re so silly!”). You can be selfish here. Do whatever it takes to make it interesting for you, it will make it easier for you to do it and it’s likely that your child will enjoy it more as well.

4. They don’t even seem to enjoy it.

Let’s face it … sometimes they don’t even seem like they care. Your 12 month old is crying because he or she is tired but doesn’t want to go to bed. My youngest would rather chew on a book than have you read it. My oldest child would often rather be reading his own book than listening to me. But, I press on. Reading is not only beneficial for the language development, but studies show that it helps to develop more nurturing parent-child relationships. Perhaps more importantly, is what it does for me. After a hard day at work, getting home to referee the boys fight for 2 hours, it’s nice to have some one-on-one time with each child to remember that I still like them.

5. No one ever told me it was important.

Well, you can’t use this one anymore can you? Just in case you missed the message, it’s important.

Start by making a plan to read to your child every day for the next month.

Get a calendar out and mark off the days. 

I promise it will benefit your child for years to come.

Resources For Families

Get to know Justin Smith, M.D.

Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician in Trophy Club  and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Smith is an experienced keynote speaker for a variety of topics including pediatric/parenting topics, healthcare social media and physician leadership. If you are interested in having Dr. Smith present to your conference or meeting, please contact him at

He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” open now. Click to learn more. To make an appointment, call 817-347-8100.


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