Experts urge the importance of reading to infants
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is encouraging parents to read, sing and speak aloud to infants during their early days. Hearing more words out loud during infancy is more likely to expand their vocabulary and long-term academic successes, researchers say.
“Fewer than half of children younger than 5-years-old are read to daily in our country,” said Dr. James M. Perrin, president of AAP, in a statement. “The benefits are so compelling that encouraging reading at young children’s check-ups has become an essential component of our care.”
It is not only important for infants to understand the sounds that parents make when speaking aloud to them, but the actual content is just as important.
Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley of Rice University (RU) recently conducted a study with about 40 families, split into high-income, middle socio-economic, and low socio-economic statuses. Observations were done on the families and the results were dramatic, according to researchers.
They found that between 86- and 98 percent of the words used by each child, by age three, were correlated right from their parents’ vocabularies.
Dr. Kimberley Dilley, pediatrician at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill. says: “We want parents to recognize that they can respond to their baby’s cues by putting their actions into words. And they should wait for the child to respond, which the baby can do even without words. This conversation can happen over every day tasks like having a meal or a bath, over a book where even a parent with low to no reading skill can describe and discuss the pictures, or with a song that tells a story to the child.”
By age four, children in low socio-economic status households hear fewer than 30 million words than those in middle and higher classes. With that being said, these children tend to have trouble catching up to academic standards.
This 30 million word difference has become called the “word gap.” It is an academic gap between higher income families and those who are in poverty. The AAP and RU research hopes that if more parents read aloud to their infants that they can lessen this gap.
“While this is a big gap, the good news is that the solution is pretty straightforward,” said Patti Miller, co-director of Too Small to Fail of the Clinton Foundation, in a statement. “We know that if we can get this important message out to parents about why you need to talk, read and sing, it can go a long way in terms of ameliorating this word gap.”
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