By Aubrey Coleman, MD - Eufaula Pediatric Clinic
Early childhood literacy has been shown to be a pillar of school success and to set children up to be successful adults. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 34% of fourth graders are below their basic reading level. Being illiterate as a child can lead to difficulties with students graduating from high school or obtaining their GED. One of the best ways to prepare your child for the future is to sharpen vocabulary skills by reading together as a family as soon as possible!
Exposing your child to books can start before they are even born. Collecting childhood favorite books from family members, thrift stores, and at your baby shower are great ways to start a book collection for your newborn.
In the first year of life, reading to your child daily can help with their early language skills and can be a great way for you to bond with your child. I love encouraging the routine of “bath, book, bed” to all parents – the routine is soothing for the child and an easy way to get a book in every day! Your child will watch the way that your mouth moves when they are first learning how to babble, can help (and put in their mouth!) turn the pages of books when they are sitting up, and can start to point at objects of interest that you may point out as they get older.
There are a few organizations that I recommend to all parents to support early reading for their children.
At Dothan Pediatric Healthcare Network, we give a new book for you to take home at every checkup between 6 months and 5 years through the Reach Out and Read program.
Another organization that I love is 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten: Read it and Reap! – 1,000 books before kindergarten can seem overwhelming but reading one book per day (they can be repeats) to your child for 3 years is 1,095 books! This organization provides support and community to parents interested in reading to their children.
Additionally, your local library can provide free books, summer reading programs, and other childhood literacy programs!
There’s no better time than now, the beginning of a new year, or the beginning (or end) of any given day, to start reading to and with your children. Let’s read!