Never too Early to Read to Your Kids

Nicolett Weston, FNP
Corvallis Family Medicine
1037 Main Street
Corvallis, MT 59828
(406) 961-4661

Never too Early to Read to Your Kids
Wondering when to start reading to your kids? It is never too early to start. Whether it is the sports page or Winnie the Pooh, reading to your baby is a way to create nurturing relationships, which is important for a child's cognitive, language and social-emotional development. There have been a good number of studies that have found empirical evidence that reading to kids does have an impact on things such as literacy and oral language readiness. There is now research that suggests reading to your baby early and often biologically impacts their brains as well. Recent studies have shown that children from more stimulating home reading environments had greater activity in the parts of the brain. This is a great argument to encourage parents to read to their children often.

Reading is a wonderful way to spend time with your kids. Of course for the younger child don't expect a long attention span, since it's the quality of the time spent that really matters, not the quantity. Don't be surprised if your toddler wants to read the same story over and over (and over) again as developmentally toddlers like routines. If you incorporate it in to your nightly bedtime routine, reading can help prevent future bedtime struggles. This is one habit you will never have to break! As your child grows they will learn to relate what's in the books to real-life experiences. A child's reading skills are important to their success in school and work. Reading can be a fun and imaginative activity for children, which opens doors to all kinds of new worlds for them. When your child learns to read on her own, she can learn and do anything!

Wondering how to start? Turn off the TV. This includes putting down your phone, tablet, and computer as well (unless of course you are reading from these devices). Find a quiet, comfortable place to share books and involve your young child in the stories by asking them to point things out. Set aside 20 to 30 minutes daily for sharing books during your regular bedtime routine. Parents play a critical role in helping their children develop not only the ability to read, but also an enjoyment for reading. Teach by example. If you have books, newspapers and magazines around your house, and your child sees you reading, then your child will learn that you value reading. Visit your local library. Try finding library books about current issues or interests in your family's or child's life, and then read them together. For example, read a book about going to the dentist prior to your child's next dental exam, or get some books about seashore life after a trip to the coast. If your child is obsessed with dragons, find a good dragon novel for your child.

There are an abundance of great resources for fun reading and literacy activities. Ready-Set-Read for families has lots of activities and ideas grouped by age that you can use to help your young child (birth to age 5) learn about language and get ready to read. Reading is Fundamental offers terrific resources, including activities, book lists, articles, brochures, and multicultural literacy resources. Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children is an online book from the National Academies of Science (NAS).

Check out the "The Read-Aloud Handbook," by Jim Trelease. This is a great book that looks at the research on reading and tells parents and educators what they need to know about reading aloud to kids. It includes all kinds of specific tips and strategies that you can start using right away, and a giant annotated list of recommended read-aloud books. Get Ready to Read is a national campaign to build the early literacy skills of preschool children. The campaign brings all kinds of resources-including a screening tool and skill-building activities to parents and early childhood teachers and caregivers for helping prepare children to learn to read and write.

Most importantly, read daily and often. There are many ways to include reading in your child's life, starting in babyhood, and continuing through the teen years. Focus on literacy activities that your child enjoys, so that reading is a treat, not a chore. If you have questions about your child's ability to use language or read, please ask your primary care provider or school system to check that part of your child's learning.

Questions and or comments regarding this week's health column please contact Nicolett Weston, FNP at Corvallis Family Medicine, a Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital owned clinic, 1037 Main Street, Corvallis, MT 59828. Working together to build a healthier community!


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