There’s a renewed sense of urgency among pediatricians to invest in the education of the next generation. In the Orlando Sentinel, Pediatrician Markus S. Renno wrote, “One in four children grow up without learning how to read. More than one-third of fourth-graders are unable to complete schoolwork successfully because they struggle with reading.” Further he wrote, “I see the effects of illiteracy on my patients and their families every day.”
In fact, The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes the power of storybooks in the home, and in the hands of young children. Doctors know that birth to age 5 is a critical period for the development of language circuits in the brain. They know that reading aloud storybooks from birth makes a profound difference in the literate lives of young children. The exposure to rich book language from birth changes a child’s life forever.
Community pediatricians like Dr. Renna have a powerful impact on illiteracy. Doctors know now, more than ever, it is important to nurture childhood literacy skills in the early years.
Every well-visit is another opportunity for a doctor to:
- provide quality storybooks with large pictures, rhyming words, and story patterns in the waiting room and exam rooms
- encourage parents to talk to their babies every day. Guide them to limit television because children learn words from interacting with people.
- display information from the local library and support local book drives
- suggest parents read aloud before bed each night
“If parents understood the huge educational benefits and intense happiness brought about by reading aloud to their children, and if every parent—and every adult caring for a child—read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy within one generation.” —Mem Fox