Motoko Rich of The New York Times, has recently reported on a policy initiative from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on reading aloud to children from infancy.
It is noted that there is a rapid development of a child’s brain in the first three years of life and reading aloud to babies can increase their vocabulary and communication skills. A study conducted 20 years ago found that children who had been read to, had a distinct advantage in school, compared to children who weren’t exposed to books. More recently, the difference between these two groups of children has been observed as early as 18 months of age.
Unfortunately with all the gadgets out there-iPhones, iPads, computers and hundreds of TV channels available in most homes, reading is becoming passé; this is to a child’s detriment. If we can read to children from the start, they will have a leg up when they enter school, apply to college, and years later when they are embark on a career. Vocabulary is crucially important, and being able to express oneself and be articulate, is a sign of an educated person.
It has often been said that a child’s brain is like a “sponge.” Meaning, it is capable of absorbing so much information. Educators know this is the best time to teach a child a foreign language. When I was in school, a second language was not introduced until seventh grade. Today many schools begin as early as kindergarten to take advantage of a young child’s ability to learn.
As the mom of four grown kids who have all gone through college, I can tell you how unpleasant and stressful the college application process is. All children are required to take the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), and their results play a huge part in their application and acceptance. There was always total agreement among my children and their peers, that the reading and writing portion of the test was much more difficult than the math portion- another reason for early exposure to books and language.
This may seem a long way off for many of you to even be concerned about, but if you can help your child now by reading to them when they are young and encouraging them to read on a consistent basis, as they get older, you are giving them an invaluable gift. Not only will their word power increase, but also, their minds and imagination will expand. The beauty of reading is that we are active. We have to do the work, and picture in our minds the stories or events taking place in a book. When we sit in front of some kind of screen, everything is done for us.
For most adults I know today, they all love reading. My generation definitely did not have the distractions this current generation has, and therefore, reading was a very big part of our growing up. Movies or tv can never challenge us to look up unfamiliar words, create a mental image, or engage us with in-depth character development, the way a book can.
To harken back to the beginning of this piece-“there is a rapid development of a child’s brain in the first three years of life.” That is interesting to me and reaffirms what I already know as a sleep consultant: Children need their sleep for proper brain development. From the age of four months on, babies need a morning nap to help their brains grow and develop, and they need an afternoon nap to help their bodies grow big and strong.
Here are my suggestions as the summer begins:
- Limit the amount of television (or any kind of screen) your child is exposed to. I would do that in the summer with my kids and one year I went so far as to have our cable service turned off completely. At first my kids complained bitterly, but then they began to see the value. We spent more time together playing games, being outside, helping around the house, reading or just talking. They were also happier and had a lot more energy.
- Let your child be outside as much as possible, (making sure they always are wearing sunscreen and a hat.) This is the time of year for kids to get lots of exercise, fresh air and sunlight. Not only will this give them a more positive disposition they will also sleep better (which means, moms and dads will sleep better!)
- Take advantage of the myriad of fresh fruits and vegetables that the summer brings. Limit candy and junk food and instead expose them to healthy snacks and meals.
- Use reading as part of the soothing routine before naps and bed time. Make sure they get the consolidated and restorative sleep they need to grow strong and healthy and that enables them to get up and do it all over again the next day!
- Be safe and enjoy the summer!!
What books do you and your child like to read?
Angela Walsh is a Family Sleep Institute, Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant, and the founder of Babes in Sleepland. She helps sleep deprived babies, children and families, get back on track and get the sleep they need and desire. To learn more about Angela and how she can help you, visit her website: babesinsleepland.com. Also get sleep tips, the latest research on baby and child products, and be part of her weekly Q and A at her Facebook page: Babes in Sleepland.