Reading to your child
TheDocSmitty offers 5 (horrible) reasons to ignore the AAP's advice
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement recently 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 ½ 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 is 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 is 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 1000 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 2 year old would rather chew on a book than have you read it. My 5 year old 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 refereeing the boys fights 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.
About the author
Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his three young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.