This comes to us from Nancy McDermott, the brilliant essayist Â I often turn to when I feel some parenting advice seems weird but I can’t quite figure out why. She also sent along the video you’ll Â love, below. So here’s an idea: Instead of feeling guilty for not making every moment “teachable” in the school sense, let’s remember there’s a whole lot of interacting that is at least as valuable as another Berenstain Bear book. – L
READ TO YOUR CHILD — FROM BIRTH!Â by Nancy McDermott
Imagine, itâ€™s your babyâ€™s first check up. She spends most of her time sleeping, eating, and filling up diapers. She canâ€™t hold her head up or roll over or smile yet. Your pediatrician examines her, talks to you about infant feeding and immunization, and then explains that you need to set aside time to read to her aloud, maybe Goodnight Moon. Maybe Shakespeare.
As of next week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in partnership with child advocates and Scholastic, will be asking its members to tell parents to read aloud to their babies from birth as, in the words of Dr. Pamela High who wrote the policy, â€œA daily fun family activity.â€
Why so early?
The focus on early childhood is driven by two sets of assumptions. The first is whatÂ psychologist Jerome Kagan calls â€œinfant determinismâ€ or the long-standing folk belief that the experiences of very early childhood determines what happened later in life. The other is the so-called Myth of the First Three Years, the mistaken idea that a very brief period in early childhood, when the brain is rapidly forming synapses connecting nerve cells, represents a critical window during which increased stimulation and enriched environments and can help children build better brains.
The AAP repeats these claims in its statement that â€œreading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships.â€ It also asserts that the new policy â€œprovides a practical and evidence- based opportunity to support early brain development in primary care practice.â€ But parents would do well to be skeptical of these new imperatives.
Yes, babiesâ€™ brains do grow dramatically in early childhood â€“ but this has no relationship to a childâ€™s capacity to learn. In fact the consensus among neuroscientists and psychologists is that â€œmore extensive periods of childhood are just, if not more significant than those of infancy and neurobiological development continues into adulthood.â€
Does reading help children to do better academically by making them â€œready to learnâ€?Â Again, we should be critical of advocatesâ€™ claims.Â While it is true that children who are â€œschool-readyâ€ do better at age three, by the time they reach the third grade these advantages fade entirely so that it is impossible to tell who was â€œschool readyâ€ and who was not.
Is This The Best Way to Bond?
But what about the idea that reading aloud to your child will strengthen your relationship to them? Reading is a great way to have fun with your baby (if you like to read) but it is not the only way. Parents and babies are actually remarkably good at coming up with ways to have fun and â€œbuild their relationshipâ€œ all on their own.â€
Itâ€™s easy to see the appeal of telling parents to read to their babies. Itâ€™s simple; it promises spectacular results; it is based on evidence â€“ at least up to a point. But will it really help? Will infants really appreciate the recommended 15-20 minutes per day? Will parents? Or will this become like AAP recommendations about breast-feeding and screen time: just another thing for parents to worry about?
[i] Macvarish, J, Lee and Lowe, P The First Three Yearsâ€™ Movement and the Infant Brain: A review of Critiques
What does this have to do with free-range parenting, Lenore? You’re wandering further afield and starting to sound like some boring conservative crank. I’m not into it. I read to my babies. They liked it and so did I. Now my kids love to read. The research is actually strong on this one and it’s hardly something that keeps kids from exploring the world or having freedom, so I say lay off it.
Are we now literally scripting child rearing? The best bonding is improvised.
I don’t think it hurts. Even if the advantage ends by third grade, that’s still a decent footing.
I will say when my kid was an infant, I didn’t bother with kid books. I just read him Entertainment Weekly. On one long car ride, I was reading and when he got restless, I read aloud to him. The book was Game Change and yes, I pulled out my best Bill Clinton voice.
I’m with lora here. I never really cared about the science about reading to my children — I didn’t know there was science to it. I love to read, and I wanted my children to share in my love for it, especially in this age of screens everywhere. I read to my babies in utereo! How nuts in that? I didn’t do it to give them academic advantages or to bolster our relationship. I did it because there are wonderful worlds out there, Middle Earth, Narnia, the Magic Treehouse, and more. Because I wanted to spark their imaginations, not let them passively be told what to imagine by TV. So, yes, read to your babies. It’s a good message for everyone.
As a defense attorney, I keep up with research on brain development and parental bonding. I understand Lenore’s rejection of scripted parenting and what looks like another guilt trip on parents. But when we look at impoverished communities, we know that many people in poverty do not read and they do not read to their children. This type of campaign can encourage the development of language skills as well as increase the time that children spend in the laps of adults. It’s not a bad thing depending on how it is suggested to the parent.
So, I can’t really get myself worked up about this, but I will say that the idea that it’s totally ‘evidence-based’ is a bit skewed. It IS definitely true that researchers saw gains in language acquisition among low-income kids whose parents read to them for 15-20 minutes per day. That said, the theory here was that this was a cohort of children who otherwise would not be getting a lot of interaction or language diversity (because said parents would typically be working many hours, and be inclined to pop kiddo in front of the TV to get dinner ready, etc.). I really need to find a citation, but I believe the same positive effect happened with families who *talked* to their kids for a minimum of 15-20 minutes per day. So it’s not reading itself that’s causing the change, it’s one-on-one verbal interaction with an adult. I imagine the recommendation comes because it’s easier to give parents a tool (books) to facilitate this than simply say, “talk to your kids.” Which, that’s kind of sad, IMO, but not my hill to die on.
Anyway, we incorporate a story as part of our going-to-bed process, and she likes it. That said, it takes probably 5 minutes (haha, can YOUR one year old sit still for a 20 minute story??), and that’s about all she’ll tolerate. I’m happy to consider the times that I’m chatting with her while making dinner or riding the subway as just as valuable as story time.
No, we don’t HAVE to read to our infants, but who cares if we do?
Reading aloud early and often is something I am strongly in favor of. Even very young infants start to recognize speech patterns, etc. For us, it was also a very nice way to wind down at the end of a busy day. There’s a fantastic book called The Read Aloud Handbook that addresses a number of benefits from reading aloud for even the youngest children. Among other things, the average number of words that a child who is read to hears is dramatically higher. I’m not calling my n of one a scientific sample, but I know that my own kids are very verbal and both are big lovers of reading now at 2 and 5. For young children it’s about fostering a love of reading and positive associations with the act of reading and being around books and that can start from day 1.
I am nutso for reading with kids, but this “recommendation” disturbs me. I would rather they say “do what feels right between you and your baby.” I would also much rather babies hear normal everyday conversation than Dr. Seuss, although a little of anything in moderation is fine.
I have a child whose vision issues were so bad that she actually could not bear to look at a book (or a video for that matter) when she was a baby/tot. I have another child who could not be torn away from books from the time she could crawl over to the book pile. (Neither had anything to do with their infancy; in fact, they were born and fostered in a developing country for most of their first year.) If I’d forced the “read together every day” thing on the first daughter, it would have been unpleasant for everyone. Instead, we treated books like every other plaything until they were older. They are both good readers now.
Reading to a newborn is not a bad thing to do, but in my opinion, it’s a bad thing to worry about or force. As if new parents don’t have enough to worry about already.
Also, these are the same people who say you shouldn’t let your kid sleep in the position s/he sleeps best in, give them a whole list of vaccines all on their 1st birthday, etc. And they change their recommendations every other day. So yeah, be skeptical.
I agree with Lora – I don’t really see this as a free-range thing.
Though, since they’re infants, the books don’t necessarily have to be age-appropriate. When my son was a newborn, I read him whatever I was reading out loud. I’m fairly certain it was some awful apocalyptic sci-fi. But it made me feel like an adult again – not just a MOM.
As Violet pointed out, many low-income parents don’t read to their kids at all. I don’t see why we wouldn’t encourage parents to read to their kids at every point in their lives.
I read to my babies while they nursed, mostly because I found nursing an incredibly boring, limiting task. By reading to them, we were both entertained.
Do you have to? No. But it’s not a bad idea if you enjoy it.
The advantage of telling parents to read to their infants is like you said, it is an easy way to bond. It also establishes a habit that is way more important when they are older and actually learning to read. As someone whose degree is in cognition and learning, I think this second piece gets left out a lot and is of critical importance. Families who read, and who love reading together and individually, have kids who do way better in school.
Does it need to start with infants? No, not really. But it is definitely the easiest time to begin the habit of reading to children.
I come from a family of educators and we were read to from the time we were born. Like the article, I don’t know that it made a huge difference in our academic success, because there are so many factors that are also present in a “reading house”. I think it does make a difference in that it is 15-20 minutes of time set aside for parents and kids to be together with a focus on being together and focusing on each other. Books give parents a tool if they don’t know how to interact for “fun” with their kids. I don’t think it is necessary for the parent to be reading the words from the book for the 15-20 minutes, or to set a timer to make sure it is 15-20 minutes–I know with my own kids sometimes we read 5 minutes and sometimes we read for 2 hours…Books give parents and kids a topic–to look at pictures, to talk about when things like this happen to them–it gives parents of infants something to do and something to talk about. I know that many of my friends who didn’t spend much time with children before they had their own say things like “I don’t know what to do with my tiny baby other than feed/change”…so I tell them to read…Like everything else, it should be a tool, not a rule. It is unfortunate that the AAP is presenting it as a rule.
I did not expect you to take this tact on this story.
There is really little doubt that being exposed to books and words at a young age significantly changes the ultimate educational outcome for kids. Children of college educated parents, for instance, are exposed to approximately 30 million more spoken words by the time they enter kindergarten. Some of these advantages may be negated by third grade but a love of school, learning and culturally shared stories may have been lost by then.
What I expected you to write was a prediction that what will happen is that someone will begin to market products to rich parents so they can increase THEIR words to kids. Once again, a policy intended to encourage a BASELINE which actually helps underprivileged kids will become a race for those who are already successful.
As a college writing teacher with a background in literacy education, I think this is nonsense. If you enjoy reading to your baby, go ahead. Personally, I enjoy sitting up with my babies when they won’t sleep at night and binge-watching Arrested Development, so I do that. Either way, it does not matter. Our beliefs about those “magical” first years of life literally are magical thinking.
This is yet another example of an intervention originally aimed at at-risk children being broadly applied to everybody. There was research done in the 60s, 70s, and 80s that indicated that in many very impoverished communities, children were seldom if ever directly spoken to. Reading aloud was one intervention recommended to help make up for that “language deficit.” However, most children are not raised in language-deficient environments, and they do not need structured read-aloud times to develop sufficient language skills. Not to mention that the intervention still did not help with either the school achievement or long-term success of children from those impoverished communities (many of whom have actually LOST ground academically and economically in the last few decades, which would indicate that there are factors far more complicated at work).
Why is this a problem? Because it’s putting more pressure on new parents. Now there is one more thing you need to do. Hey, new mom, in between feeding your baby, changing your baby, comforting your baby, and trying to sleep and shower yourself, you now better work in daily reading time. You love your kid, right? It’s nonsense. Millenia of parents had it right: Did your child survive their first two years? Then congrats, parents, you did a good job.
Some other problems I have with these initiatives:
1. They fail to take into account that we are an increasingly literate and educated society, but people are doing worse and worse. We now have a 50% unemployment rate among recent college grads, and 20% of people in their twenties and early thirties living with their parents because they cannot support themselves (and a total of 60% of people that age relying on their parents for a significant part of their financial support). I really think people need to start asking what the point of all of this emphasis on educational attainment and improvement is if we’re going to continue to have a shortfall of jobs for college grads and low-paying service jobs making up nearly all of new jobs being created. What kind of game is this that we’re being asked to play (and being asked to play with the futures of our children)?
2. The emphasis on early childhood stuff totally privatizes issues of inequality. Your kid isn’t doing well in school? You must have screwed up in their first two years, then. Your college grad can’t find a job? What did you do wrong when they were babies? If you make the first 2-3 years determinative, you are basically saying that our children’s failures and struggles are entirely the fault of our early parenting practices, instead of asking the hard questions about larger, systematic problems and how we can address them.
Though I never really followed any parenting “guidelines,” I read to both of my girls from birth. The reason I did this was not because of any perceived notions of raising some kind of super-intelligent child or whatever. I did it because it calmed them down and it calmed me down.
With my oldest, who turned 10 yesterday, I wasn’t even reading “children’s” books, so called â€“ I was reading her whatever I happened to be reading, which at the time, when she was a baby, was Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey-Maturin series â€“ 20 or so books written in a Napoleonic maritime vernacular that I started when she was about 5 months old and continued for I don’t know how long, and which I read to her at just about every naptime and bedtime. But I did it because that’s what I wanted to do.
It helped her go to sleep â€“ she couldn’t understand any of it but I am a good reader, and the tones of my voice and the flow of the words helped to calm her down. With my youngest who is 3 and a half, it was T.S. Eliot’s “cat poems,” as we call them in our house, and A.A. Milne’s books of poetry. Delightful to read for me and like Xanax for a wound-up infant.
Each of them, as infants, when I read to them, they would quiet down, their eyes would fix on some distant point, and they would usually go to sleep pretty quickly.
Now, again, I never did this for any clinical reason. I did it because I love to read, I love to read aloud, and I wanted my babies to hear the sound of my voice and hear new words. HOWEVER I will say this: both of my girls now, at 10 and 3, are phenomenally intelligent with absolutely tremendous vocabularies. I don’t say this because they’re my babies, I say this cause it’s true. Now there is no way this is so because I read to them when they were babies â€“â€“ but it couldn’t have hurt! — And those are some of my most enjoyable memories of my babies when they were babies!
My takeaway from it is this: do with your child the things you like to do. You will be happy, they will be happy.
I love your work, keep it up, and thank you for listening!
P.S. — Remember when the thread of the day was, “Play Mozart for your child while they sleep, it will make them smarter.” Well, why just Mozart? What about Prokofiev? Stravinsky? The Chieftains? Miles Davis? The Police? Here the case is similar. Reading to your infant? OK. How about talking to your infant like an adult, or having moments with your infant like in the video you’ve posted? Playing with them with their favorite toy? Anything that does not involve you, as a parent, with you face stuck in your device or glued to the television.
@lora There is no science behind reading to infants. There is a science behind reading to borderline neglected preschoolers with underdeveloped communication skills. Infants from healthy families listen to speech quite a lot.
There are correlations between owning books (not reading them) and kids school results. There are also correlations between reading to older kids and their school results, but none that would specifically show any effect on infants.
Child development studies and especially getting cause and effects right are notoriously hard. All the while misrepresentation of them in press are extremely common.
Lora, I agree. Who cares? I read to my baby each night from day one. It helped me establish a bedtime routine and he did seem to like it. Even if he didn’t, I liked it. I am not sure why we have to ridicule every bit of parenting advice we come across. No you don’t HAVE to read to your baby, but what can it hurt? Really? For most mothers, these baby bonding tips come naturally, but not to all. some parents could use a little extra advice. I think the AAP is just trying to give parents some suggestions for bonding with their babies and I really don’t see the harm in the suggestion. Geez..
This has nothing to do with being free range and more to do with anti establishment-ism…
But also, you should read to your kid even infants. You should also talk to them and play with them. The human brain goes through multiple evolutions. For example if you don’t learn to talk by the age of 5 it is extremely hard to learn to do so from that point on. Reading is part of an equation and not just an answer. The brain also goes through explosions during the teens and again in the 20s. 15 to 20 minutes a day is nothing. You spend the entire rest of the waking day interacting with your infants in other ways. Reading also encourages joint attention and other things. But like I said reading is part of an equation and not just an answer.
Tone it down L…
“There is really little doubt that being exposed to books and words at a young age significantly changes the ultimate educational outcome for kids. Children of college educated parents, for instance, are exposed to approximately 30 million more spoken words by the time they enter kindergarten.”
But “words” and “books” are not the same thing. And, we can’t discount other factors that are at work here, like that college educated parents have many, many other privileges that may account for their children’s success in school.
We have been recommending more reading/talking as an intervention for at-risk kids for decades. It has not worked. We have indeed seen rising literacy and graduation rates among those groups–a good thing!–but we have seen NO corresponding increase in their socioeconomic status. In fact, we’ve seen the actual socioeconomic status of poor and minority groups DECLINE as their educational attainment and literacy has gone up. We have to stop believing the lie that more education is the solution to all the problems of the poor. It isn’t. That’s privatizing what is a huge, systematic issue that urgently needs to be dealt with.
Reading to kids will not magically get them to read better later on. Most of the benefits from being a ‘reading family’ has little to do with the reading, but instead with why the family reads so much, and how much encouragement they give. If your family is so in love with reading that they naturally read to the child, then they already have a lot of the gumption for it. The childs real benefit from listening to someone read is twofold really.
One, they are given some bonding time with parents. Despite this being free range, bonding with parents is still important to babies. So taking time to do that is a good thing.
and two, they are hearing people talk. How do you think babies learn how to talk, learn a language, etc? Part of it is by hearing the words of that language said..A LOT. Reading to your child also does this.
So finally we hit..why is this a free range issue, if it actually is a decently good idea (time for bonding, and helping to hear words more often).
Because of the way its being presented, and because of past issues with this sort of thing. In this world where, leaving your child to sleep peacefully in a vented car for 5 minutes can get you arrested. Where letting them walk, on their own, to the library can get you arrested. Where not driving to the school yourself and picking them up, and instead insisting they walk home…can get you arrested. Where being poor and not having a child seat for your 5 year old who wears the cars seatbelt just fine, can get you arrested. Where any number of created ‘parents MUST do this’ are turned into reasons to claim child endangerment, or child abuse. Adding one more thing, piling up yet one more thing that is at first ‘a good idea’ but my eventually be turned into ‘oh you didn’t read to your child today? lets call CPS…’ is not something this world needs.
I think the point is that making an official recommendation has the effect of creating stress and shame for parents who don’t read for good reasons. Like, because their kids won’t have it, or they are too exhausted, or they feel their newborn needs more time making eye contact rather than looking at books.
The things we who stay up on parenting research and trends via blogs, books and other media take as ‘given’ are NEWS to many parents, the like affects of early reading, and having a TV in your kids room. Recommendations like this can only help to get the word out about best practices. Parenting-guilt doesn’t need articles or guidelines, we guilt ourselves regardless.
We do all realize that NOBODY read to infants for, like, most of human history. Aristotle’s mother did not read to him as a baby. Einstein’s mother did not read to him as a baby. Shakespeare’s mother did not read to him as a baby.
Again, if you like to do it, fine. Have fun. Your baby doesn’t know the difference between you reading to them and just talking to them, but if it’s an activity you like, do it.
But the harm is that we’re putting yet another pressure on parents. The AAP isn’t saying, “Hey, if you enjoy reading to your infants, it can’t hurt.” The AAP is saying, “Parents should read to their babies, from birth.”
Parents do not need one more pressure. I can pretty much guarantee you that I will NOT be reading to my new baby when she comes. She will likely overhear me reading to her older siblings. She will be exposed to LOTS of words, because she’s going to be born into a family of five people who are ALL talkers (all three of my kids start talking the moment they wake up and don’t stop until they fall asleep). She will have dozens of board books to play with and bang against things and chew on (the main things any of my children have enjoyed doing with books until they were maybe 1-1/2 or so). But I will not be setting aside 15-20 minutes a day to read books to her, because I’ve got three other kids who actually enjoy and get something out of being read to (including a homeschooled kid who I read to for probably an hour or more a day), and there are other ways I’d prefer to bond with my baby.
I read to my oldest a ton when he was little, and he was reading at 3. I pretty much never read to my youngest (even now, I only read to him if he asks, although he does listen in when the older two get read to sometimes), and he can decode simple CVC words at 2, and can write all of his letters. My kids’ reading ability is not due to my parenting, and I’m not going to pat myself on the back for doing things right or expect other parents to emulate what I do.
Issues of academic achievement and socioeconomic status are far, far, far more complicated than how many minutes a kid is read to a day and we don’t do anybody a service by pretending that our practices have more power than they do.
I truly believe that reading to my children is useful. At 32, I’m pretty convince that my many speech errors that I got from my parents will never go away despite my husband DAILY corrections. So I’m happy that my children will hopefully learn a better language if I read to them. I know it helps a lot in school, because it’s what helped me a lot when I was learning to write. But as I said, it didn’t correct all my speech mistakes so I don’t believe in miracles. It’s just that even without my parents wrong way of talking, the fact remains that we all need to learn two languages, the spoken language and the written language. I don’t know about English, but it’s really different in French. I know that not only my parents reading to me, but me listening to TV helped me a lot too.
I agree with a comment that said he reads anything to his baby, not just baby books. That way it’s not forced because you are reading something you like. I think it’s important too. Reading shouldn’t be a task.
I’m 100% with @anonymous mom here. I learned to read around 2, because my mom let me play with the Sears catalog, and I had a lot of books and such at my disposal. I also happen to have two educated parents who read, a mom who stayed home, and plenty of other privilege. We only started reading to our daughter once she stopped falling asleep nursing, and we needed a tool to calm down and get ready for bed. That said, she is a pretty privileged kid herself, and I have no illusions that what we do in the next couple of years is going to be all that deterministic of her success in life. There are plenty of larger forces at play.
Yes I did read to my infants. I would sit them in bouncy seats or swings and read to them. It calmed them just hearing the sound of my voice. I was skeptical about it at first too because when I worked at a daycare they wanted us to do it. Now we were busy just feeding, changing, soothing, diapering the 8 infants in the room to have time to read to them. So I kinda thought it was stupid at that point and maybe it was.
But if you only have one baby it should not be hard to do. Better than having the tv on in the background 24/7. No one is saying do it all the time. Heck just one book a day would be good. It is about hearing language and the cadence of how you sound when you read aloud. It is about having everything else in the house quiet. It is about from an early age establishing that books are a good thing and an important part of their life. Then as they get older they get to chew on and play with board books and do night time stories and progress from there to easy reader books and then reading on their own.
Absolutely. I am starting to think Free Range Parenting means – don’t do shit with your kids. I have daughters that love to read. I read to them all since they were born. Two of them are entering High School this year and read at least a couple of books a week – BECAUSE THEY WANT TO! They learn to love it because it was always part of their life. It is the greatest gift to give to your kids. Especially now that there was a report majority of kids their age do not read.
OK, I’m going to take a different path in my comment. I love music, from Gregorian Chant to New Wave. But, there’s no music Beethoven, Count Basie, or Blondie could write, that compares with the wonderful music of a baby’s laugh. I love my 24 yo daughter and enjoy interacting with her as an adult, but boy, I miss that giggle.
The story handed down about my childhood was that my parents read to me and my sister every day since birth until we were able to read to ourselves.
I took that as an excellent parenting challenge, and felt inadequate when I found reading to my first baby to be a boring chore. He was a squirmer who did not particular care to sit and be read to until he got to be about a year old.
With my second, I still don’t particularly love reading to a tiny baby, and I still feel a little guilty about it. Other than having a lovely memory of reading my husband’s favorite childhood book to each boy on their very first night, I found my “challenge” to be more of a guilt-inducer than something that really helped me be a better parent.
However, my oldest is now nearly 4 and he loves books. He brings them to me to read (which was a little awkward when he found our copy of Go the F*** to Sleep recently). He sees me reading all the time. He “reads” to himself. We are a highly book-intensive household.
Basically, my concern with the AAP recommendation is the lack of a gray area. I’m such a rule-follower that I felt like I was hurting my children by not reading to them every day from birth simply based upon our family tradition. Having the AAP also tell me I’m screwing up could have been really guilt-inducing when I was a new mom.
It was another commenter on this site who recently said that we tend to conflate less-than-ideal with actively harmful. The read-to-your-kids-from-birth directive is the same trend in reverse: conflating an activity that is necessary for at-risk kids to be successful with one that is necessary for ALL kids to be successful.
I would love it if we could all just CTFD and recognize that the vast majority of parents are doing the best they can, and work as a society to help out those parents who do need it.
This is the first time I have ever been disappointed in a Free-Range post.
But instead of digging further into the Internet’s well of negativity, I will merely exhort anyone who stumbles upon this comment to seek out *Babies Need Books* by Dorothy Butler. The book recommendations may be out of print but the romantic, compelling year-by-year developmentally appropriate advice is timeless and transformative. Reading to babies is not an exercise in futility, nor is it make-work for anxious parents killing time until their babies grow up to be “real” children.
Butler also has a follow-up titles called *Five to Eight*. You can also refer to Jim Trelease’s unassailable *Read-Aloud Handbook*, now in its seventh edition.
The funny thing is..this author is using the argument that parents are given too many reasons to worry and this blog always criticizes the “alarmist” reaction to what may or may not be safe for our children. What about the alarmist nature of this article? All I am getting from this is that this woman is outraged that the AAP has the gall to suggest she read to her baby as if reading to our infants is going to ruin their childhood. Are we being freakin serious? Seriously. Calm down. It is OK if the AAP makes a simple suggestion. Society WILL overcome. Trust me.
I really get a kick out of the people in here. Why does it have to be a clearcut, black and white issues of FreeRange, for Lenore to post it. Sorry it’s her site, and she can damn well post whatever she wants.
Secondly, I am with Lenore that far too often the gov’t, schools and prof. organizations are setting the standards for what makes a good parent. Not only that, but it has come to the point that you are a bad parent if you don’t do what they say.
I don’t care what any prof. says, there is noway reading to a newborn will increase their ability to read down the road. Now did I read to mine, yes I did. Kids books……no. My technical journals, newspapers, and outdoor magazines. Why, because the sound of my voice, holding them and being with them is what is important, not the reading or subject.
By the time I was 4 year old, my grandfather read me the whole tome of “la miserable” by victor hugo. He also taught me how to read by the time I was 3. He was a very hard and difficult man and it was the only way he knew how to meanigfuly interact with me. He wasn’t a learned man, but he knew how to read well and he chose to share it with me, and these are the most valuable memories I have of him. My father used to read me poetry until I was probably 12 years old. These were the moments of intense bonding and understanding between us. I think these experiences shaped me as a person. I read to my children way beyond the point when they can read by themselves. Reading to your child is not just for educational and learning purposes. Reading helps to create treasured memories.
I’m going to post this anonymously because I know what flak this statement gets and I’m tired of it.
I didn’t read to my children. My husband did once in awhile but he generally works late and on weekends we generally do so many things that the kids fall asleep on the way home.
Both my boys read early and have a passion for reading, read very early, and consistently read above grade level (to the point it’s caused other issues) If the person doing it hates doing it or the kids hate sitting for it (as I see so often during ‘circle time’ at various events) it’s not going to inspire a love of reading.
There are other ways to provide a language rich environment. There are other ways of inspiring a passion to read. There are other ways to encourage physical bonding and cuddle time (much better ways as well when you consider the horrific advice many pediatricians give out about sleep training).
I’m tired of the establishment trying to fix the results of child poverty without fixing the cause. I’m also very tired of trying to drag everyone to the bottom to fix “inequality”. If you want to fix child poverty you need to give money and support to parents.
Someone reading to the baby 20 minutes a day is in no way going to make up for mom working three jobs and baby getting bounced from sitter to sitter who disappear after only a few months. It’s not going to fix the language deficit. It’s not going to fix the attachment deficit either. It’s not a magic cure-all and it won’t work at all for parents who can’t read. With this much pressure they aren’t going to admit it. Heck in the UK they’re discussing fining parents who don’t read to their kids. It also very disrespectful of cultures with an oral history tradition.
School lunches do not fix food insecurity. A child isn’t going to be less anxious about food if they get food only on days the school is in and have to watch their mom, dad, and sometimes younger siblings go without.
“Tummy time” doesn’t fix the deficit from not carrying your baby around and instead leaving them in devices a good chunk of the time (so you won’t “spoil” them).
Earlier and earlier schooling doesn’t fix anything either. There’s lots of evidence that kids do better when they start school later except the kids who are in a suboptimal family situation or impoverished families that are forced to use suboptimal childcare. Instead of pretending that 6 hours of school is going to help parents working two or three jobs each, we need to value parenting as real work. We need to stop thinking poor people need to be punished, or that they somehow brought it on themselves.
For people who are saying that their kids love to read because they read to them as babies: honestly, that’s probably not it. It’s far more likely that you read to your children as babies because YOU love to read, and it’s YOUR love of reading–your child having a model of a parent who chooses to read in their free time, and likely having access to lots of books in the house–that played far more of a role.
I love to read. Growing up, I’d manage to finish a book in a day or two, and even now, if I have the time, I’ll still do that. It’s not because my parents read to me when I was a baby, because they didn’t. It’s not even because they read to me when I was a kid–starting at about 3 I’d get one bedtime story a night, which I did enjoy, but they weren’t systematic about it.
To the extent that environment played a role in my love of reading, it’s because I had a dad who loved to read. I’d see him sit down at night with a book at least as often as he’d sit down to watch TV. Trips to the library or bookstore were something we did from the time I was small, and something we did more of as I got older. Weekly visits to either the local library or a bookstore were probably our main form of bonding when I was a teenager (many weekends we’d have lunch at a Chinese restaurant, go spend a couple of hours walking around Borders, then sit down and have coffee and talk). And we had lots of books in the house for me to read, and my parents allowed me to read pretty much anything I was interested in. I never got a regular allowance, but if there was a book I wanted and they had the money, they’d get me the book, and they’d take me to the library whenever I wanted. Those things were MUCH more influential than the fact that they failed to read to me 15-20 minutes a day when I was four months old.
You probably read to your baby, if you did, because you love to read, and if your kid loves to read, it’s your love of reading that influenced them, not the reading itself. If you had waited until 2 or 3 or 4 to start reading aloud to them, but modeled a love of reading for them by reading yourself, they’d very likely still love to read just as much.
Ugh this whole thing is absurd. Have you read the whole guidelines? There’s 5Rs and only one of them’s reading -which is pointless for the reasons above. Also I refuse, point blank, to have a long drawn out bedtime ritual because I’ve had that since I was a child and it sucks. I want my kids to be able to go to bed and go to sleep.
What’s with the obsession with routines and “reward with praise”. It’s got to stop. A bedtime routine and praise isn’t magically going to make babies sleep through before they are developmentally able. A feeding schedule doesn’t make babies thrive either. Strict routines don’t magically stop tantrums. Strict routines and praise don’t magically make children not be children. I sincerely hope I don’t have to explain why over-scheduling is bad to the fans of this page. And I’m not going to open the rewards-debate can-of-worms but let’s just leave it at: it’s clearly not the only right choice for every family.
As to why this is about free-range parenting: This is about industrializing and regimenting more and more of childhood, starting at infancy rather than letting kids learn through play. Instead of allowing their natural curiosity lead to books and reading.
Honestly I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Reading to your babies is a wonderful thing to do. My boys so loved being read to, especially the same books over and over. They would bounce with joy when they saw a favourite (this was long before they could talk). It doesn’t have to be about literacy, although I’m sure it helps, but why criticise or question the 10 minutes of bedtime (or other) reading with your baby? I loved it, as did they.
Anonymous mom–I completely disagree regarding historic figures being read to. Throughout all of human history babies were told stories, sung songs and held by mothers or other caregivers who were talking to other people.
One major change in our society is that we have technology that lets us “talk” by typing or to talk on the phone where the baby only hears half the conversation. The result is that some children are now not hearing as much spoken word in infancy.
I think the point is pretty clear – if you want to read to your babies, go ahead (I do), but there’s no evidence that it makes a cognitive difference later.
To Anonymous, I don’t know if you will receive flak, but I agree with everything you said!
How exactly do you free range parent an infant. At that age they totally depend on the parent for everything. If you are not reading to them you are doing something else with them. Reading is something positive. It does not take much effort and actually is easy and enjoyable.
@brian, but talking to children and reading to them are two different things, and if children are exposed to enough language (which most children are–the issue with language-deficient environments isn’t computers and smartphones, but dire poverty), there is honestly no reason to read to them as babies unless it’s an activity the parent enjoys.
And if they are in a truly language-deficient environment, there’s enough other problems they are facing that reading to them 15-20 minutes is simply a short-term band-aid that we know doesn’t have long-term compensatory impact.
@TRS: But it’s NOT always “easy and enjoyable” to read to a baby or toddler. That’s the issue.
Personally, while I love to read, I hate reading aloud. Always have. It is not an activity I enjoy, at all. However, as a parent, I suck it up and do it, and as a homeschooling parent, I really suck it up. But, after doing some read alouds with my oldest for school and reading a book or two to my younger kids that they want to hear, I’m totally burned out on reading aloud. I’m extremely grateful my husband does the bedtime stories around here, because usually by 7 p.m., after a day of interacting with my extremely verbal kids ALL DAY, I really need a break from speaking and being spoken to.
And, my two younger kids both went through pretty long phases where they did not like being read to. My 4yo now loves it, and happily sits still for half an hour at night while her dad reads her Magic Treehouse books. My 2yo still isn’t too fond of it, and if we get through half a book without him squirming away, that’s a lot. But, he loves words and letters. Right at this moment, he’s making words out of Bananagrams with his older brother. Reading to him is NOT fun. Reading to a child who is trying to push the book away and crawl out of your lap isn’t fun, and reading to a child who isn’t paying attention isn’t fun. Now, there are certainly lots of things we do as parents that aren’t fun, but that are so necessary or beneficial that we do them anyway. But, is reading to a child who doesn’t want to be read to one of those things? I don’t think so, especially if the child will happily engage in other literacy activities (like playing with Bananagrams).
So we can say, “It’s fun, it’s easy, so why wouldn’t somebody read to their baby?” but it’s not always fun, it’s not always easy, and there are lots of reasons why somebody might not. They do not need guilt and shame about not doing one more thing we’ve decided is absolutely essential but that really isn’t.
So are you saying don’t bother reading or singing to your infant? If you are that is just foolish. Hearing voices directed towards them is how infants develop language and social skills. Reading to your child is one of the simplest ways to do this. You don’t have to read them Shakespeare or Goodnight Moon you can read the racing form, tacky romance novels, or the back of a cereal box, just be sure to do it with enthusiastic inflection.
Poo-pooing the idea of reading to your child is the equivalent of saying that just because your infant can’t tell the difference between your face and a paper plate with two big dots drawn on it means that it is okay to ignore your baby when you aren’t feeding or changing it. (Although, if you have a fussy infant and need a break, I highly recommend hanging a paper plate with a smiley face drawn on it over the crib).
While I agree with Lora, I also think that Lenore’s post goes more to the point that we don’t need to fixate on everything that the “experts” say to get our kids ahead by denying them other pleasures. I think this post doesn’t say that as well as it could though. Having said all that, I love reading, and I only learned to love it later in life, I’ve read to my daughter almost every night since she was born and now she is starting to love reading. I hope that all my reading did expand her vocabulary and all that jazz, but I hope more than anything that she continues to love reading and can explore the world in so many ways through reading. I once read about a father who read to his daughter every night until she went to college, but later she also began to read to him, if I could have that kind of bond with my children that alone would make it worth it.
Warren: just reading out loud what you wanted to read is still good. It does not have to be a children’s book. If anything exposing them to more grown up language and words can be a good thing.
If your baby is a squirmer there is a solution to where you can still read to them. I would keep books in the car and if we arrived somewhere early or got stuck in traffic, I would read to them while they were strapped into the car seats. Or when they had a snack and were strapped into their high chair I would read to them. So that way you are killing two birds with one stone. I even heard of a mom that reads while her kids were in the bath. I read to mine when they were potty training and spending all day sitting on the potty a lot. Kept them happy to sit there.
It does not have to be all about sitting down in your lap to read. You can be creative about it.
“Poo-pooing the idea of reading to your child is the equivalent of saying that just because your infant canâ€™t tell the difference between your face and a paper plate with two big dots drawn on it means that it is okay to ignore your baby when you arenâ€™t feeding or changing it.”
If reading to your child were the only way to expose them to language, that might be true. However, it’s not.
There are many other ways for a parent to expose a baby to language. You can narrate your daily activities to them. You can carry them in a baby carrier and they will be exposed to all of your conversations. You can sing to them. You can plop them in a baby bouncer in the middle of roomful of kids and they’ll be exposed to plenty of social interaction, some directed at them.
But the bigger point is that most parents do not need to worry about this. Their child is not growing up in a language-deficient environment. Most children are NATURALLY exposed to more than enough language to develop their own language skills, without the parents needing any advice from experts or doing anything special. There are many, many ways to provide a home environment that exposes a child to a sufficient amount of language, and there are even many, many ways to provide a language-rich home environment. Reading aloud to babies may or may not be a part of that. But most parents naturally manage to provide their baby with sufficient language stimulation, and always have.
Again, the issue is the minority of homes that truly are language-deficient. And, again, children growing up in those homes are nearly always also growing up in dire poverty. The impact of poverty on children is so great that simply addressing the language portion of it is not a solution, and may actually make things worse by completely privatizing the problem instead of addressing the larger systematic issues at work.
I would also imagine that we see diminishing returns here. There does seem to be some baseline level of verbal interaction that is beneficial to kids. And, again, most families reach that baseline on their own, without any special guidelines, and even without formal infant reading times. For homes that are well below that baseline–where a child is exposed to little or no language–reading aloud might be one way to help a parent who lacks the natural skills to do so on their own to get their child to that baseline (although doing so is only going to have short-term positive results). But, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that a child exposed to significantly more language than the baseline does better than the child exposed to just a little more language than the baseline. So we shouldn’t have some new parenting competition, now about who can expose their kids to the most words per day. That’s not how these things work.
Language exposure is a non-issue for most families. Most infants have more than sufficient language exposure without parents reading aloud to them.
@SOA: But is there any evidence that reading to your child during a mealtime is any more beneficial than, when they are young, talking to them during the meal or, if they are older, having a conversation with them? I’m not aware of anything that would indicate that.
That’s the point. Reading aloud is NOT magic. It just isn’t. Sitting around the table and playing rhyming games is just as if not more beneficial for early literacy than using meal times as a time to read aloud. There are many, many ways to expose a child to language, and reading aloud is just one of them.
I think reading to babies is a great idea. But I think that having doctors recommend it as if it were a health, safety, or development issue is unnecessary. Recommendations become minimum requirements (think car seats) when set forth by the AAP. With the way we are going, in a generation or two, if we don’t follow basic scripts everyday, busybody sanctimommies are going to be having your kids taken away or at least have you investigated.
You let your kids sleep until 9 am? Shame on you.
You fed them Lucky Charms for breakfast? Calling CPS.
They watched 30 minutes of television instead of reading? At the very minimum you need parenting classes.
At lunch you gave them Kool-Aid to drink? Obviously you are neglectful and don’t care about them.
After lunch you went to the library and your 6 year old isn’t rear facing? Child endangerment, investigation and possible jail time.
Naptime was a fight, so you spanked when the kid got out of bed for the 8th time? Bye-bye kids!
After nap you sent the kids out to play in your fenced back yard (alone)? What a neglectful mother you are, someone should take away your kids.
And so on and so forth. Homeschooling will become a thing of the past, since there will be no place for random adults to grill your children about all your parenting decisions. Or maybe they will assign social workers to everyone at birth to make sure you do this parenting thing right.
Hopefully this doesn’t come to pass, but I won’t be highly surprised if it does if we don’t find some way to turn the tide. People are so self-righteous that they think their way (or the recommended way) is the ONLY way, and if you don’t do it, you are either neglectful or downright abusive.
So yes, reading to your kids is a wonderful way to teach them new words and spend time together. But unless there is a lag in development related to reading, perhaps doctors (and the AAP) should not give mothers (because in my experience fathers don’t give a crap what other people recommend and feel free to raise their kids as they see fit) ANOTHER thing to worry and feel guilty about. Parenting should NOT be the hardest thing you ever do, but so called experts seem determined to make it as difficult and unpleasant as possible.
@ anonymous mom
So you think reading to a kid for 15 minutes a day is bad?
Since my infant daughter was in daycare all day long, reading to her every night was important time for ME. It was part of the few hours each workday that I got to spend with her. It was part of our nightly routine. Even thinking about it now, 7 years later, it relaxes me some.
When she was really young, every night it was Dr. Seuss’s ABC book–“Ichabod is itchy. So am I.” is permanently burned into my brain.
I also put her to bed with classical music in the background–so she would learn to sleep with noise in the house.
I think the reading instilled a love for books in her that she wouldn’t have developed at our craptastic daycare that we got stuck with. I don’t know if the music did anything, but she still sleeps through an enormous amount of noise.
I don’t think reading to an infant is anti-free range parenting at all. Your mileage may vary.
I see the point, but I think that the ‘from birth’ recommendation is more geared at getting parents into the habit of reading to their kids. The earlier that habit starts, the stronger it is likely to be later, when the kid might benefit more from it for language acquisition, reading skills, etc. Of course parents can bond with their infants in other ways, but encouraging reading as a family activity, a strong habit, is a nice thing for pediatricians to do. Read early, read often!
Goodness, but people are missing the point! It’s not that Lenore doesn’t want you to read to your kids, it’s that she’s skeptical of the idea that reading to your kids is a “must do” that is necessary to prevent illiterate or otherwise damaged kids. The problem with the AAP recommending reading to your kids is not that reading to your kids is bad, it’s that a bunch of doctors recommending something carries weight, and it’s not well-enough established, considering how seriously people take recommendations from doctors and how it lays yet another guilt trip on young parents.
“I think reading to babies is a great idea. But I think that having doctors recommend it as if it were a health, safety, or development issue is unnecessary. Recommendations become minimum requirements (think car seats) when set forth by the AAP. ”
And I’m not saying people shouldn’t interact with their kids. Or that reading is bad. Just that it’s not magic. That’s it.
My 2yo doesn’t enjoy being read to, and I don’t push it. But, he enjoys many other language-related activities, including:
– Playing simple word games (like thinking of all the words he can that start with letter A)
– Playing with letter magnets, letter blocks, letter tiles, basically anything with letters
– Telling jokes
– Asking “What dat?!” about everything he sees
– Looking through books (but not having them read to him)
– Writing letters in chalk all over our sidewalk (and sometimes in crayon all over our walls)
– Making his toys talk to each other
These are ALL valuable activities that enhance his literacy skills in a very natural, child-directed way. And, there are many more he could engage in. We need to acknowledge that there are many ways for children to explore and learn language, and that the current favorite practice of the bourgeoisie–reading aloud 15-20 minutes a day–is just not the be-all-and-end-all of language development.
@ Rachel @ Wife Then Mama @ anonymous mom lady
Reading to aloud to children is a good idea, doing it as one activity among many is what is being talked about here, 15 minutes of reading, plus whatever number of hours talking, whatever number of hours playing, whatever number of hours doing whatever.
Are you all saying you never ever read to your baby, toddler, or child? You never used reading a story as a way to pass the time, put a kid to sleep, or just have a quiet moment?
Yes! Well said!
@Dirk, no, I don’t think reading to a baby 15 minutes a day is bad. I also don’t think that singing folk songs while playing the mandolin for your baby 15 minutes a day is bad, but it would be absurd for the AAP to make it a recommendation.
The AAP is not saying, “Hey, folks: it’s NOT BAD to read to your babies 15 minutes a day.” The AAP is saying, basically, “If you don’t want your kid to suck, you will read to them 15-20 minutes a day from the time they are born.” That’s the problem. A parent is NOT harming their child by not reading aloud to them as babies, and it’s not a pressure that parents need, especially when 1) most parents don’t need to worry about exposing their child to enough language and 2) for parents who may need to worry about that, there are many potential ways to do so.
Lenore is practicing overkill. Of course a good parent minus reading to the kid will not ruing a life. However, reading to your kids and starting the habit early is probably a good idea. It certainly isn’t a BAD idea..it certainly will have more positives to it than negatives.
My parents read to me from the time I was a baby, and my mom tells me that I was able to actually benefit from it since before I was a year old–and, there are pictures of her reading to me as an infant, with me pointing at the pictures, so I believe her. It’s probably part of the reason why I loved to read so much as a kid, and still do now (to some extent, anyway). The thing is, though, my mom wasn’t being a sanctimommy–she loves to read too, so she was just sharing something she enjoyed with her child. It’s not a crazy thought–one of my friends who’s also a yoga teacher, has a daughter who just turned eight, and that daughter has been accompanying my friend to yoga classes for years. Some people say that kids don’t need yoga, but my friend’s daughter enjoys it, so why not? Another friend of mine is an artist (actually, I have several artist friends, but this one seems to build her life around art rather than the other way around), and she used to run an “art with kids” program for kids in the community, but it began with her own children, and her friends’ children, when they were young. ANOTHER friend of mine is a very talented pianist, and in her house, there’s a picture of her youngest son, as a toddler, sitting on the piano bench wearing nothing but a T-shirt and a diaper. None of these people forced their kids to follow in their footsteps; they were just going along with what they saw the influential adults in their lives doing. Kids want to imitate adults, so if they see their parents reading/doing yoga/making art/playing a musical instrument, then they’ll want to at least try it.
@Dirk: How exactly are you going from people not reading to infants to people never reading to their children? Or from people questioning the necessity of reading to infants 15-20 minutes a day to people never reading to their children?
I actually read aloud to my kids, as I said, A LOT. I’m a homeschooler. I probably read aloud to my oldest an hour per day for school. And then I’ll read my kids books on an as-requested basis during the day. And we do include reading stories as part of the bedtime routine for our preschool-aged kids.
But, I don’t read to newborns or infants. I don’t enjoy reading aloud, so unless the child is enjoying it or getting something truly necessary or beneficial out of it, I’m not going to do it. I find plenty of ways to interact verbally with my babies that I don’t find unpleasant, and none seem to have suffered any language deficits because I didn’t read aloud to them when they were 3 months old.
@Emily, would you think it was a good idea, since some kids enjoy yoga and doing it doesn’t hurt, for the AAP to issue a guidelines that all parents ensure their kids are getting in 30 minutes of yoga 3-4 times a week?
I Googled Does the UK fine parents for not reading to kids? Apparently, this is seriously being discussed there. http://www.bbc.com/news/education-27884057
I really didn’t think this was a free-range issue until I read that BBC article, and it made my blood boil. I read to my infants because I wanted to. I read Terry Pratchett out loud as I nursed because yes, nursing is boring if you don’t like daytime TV. My sister took her babies to church. I always found that to be more trouble than it was worth–what are the babies getting out of it? But she wanted to. It was her personal belief that the verbal interaction, the speaker reading from the pulpit instead of me, was good for them. All well and good. But now I guess the British government is going to settle the question of which one of us was “right” instead of it being our individual parenting choices?
And yes, anonymous mom, this British head of education makes it clear that poor parents are bad parents.
Lenore, I’m glad you opened up this discussion.
My obviously-language-deprived 4yo–because I never read to her as a baby and probably didn’t start reading to her regularly until she was almost 3–has been running around for the last 15 minutes singing a song she made up called “You Can’t Have Cute Without (Yo)u.” And she came over and sang it for me and said, “Get it, Mama? You can’t have ‘cute’ without ‘u’ the letter or ‘you’ [pointing to me]. Get it?”
Again: many, many ways to encourage children’s language development, and most parents are doing them naturally. There is no need for one more thing to feel badly about not doing.
Come off it. They also say breast feeding is better than formula but they certainly don’t say you are harming your baby by giving them formula.
Also, in regards to music (what did you say the mandolin?) I bet you that the AAP has recs on music too. They probably say it is good! Thing is people don’t have to play the mandolin in their daily lives do they…
Also, you seem to forget who the AAP is. They are your pediatricians. It is a group of doctors. Like the ABA for lawyers. They are not some powerful government or rich private institution. They are a bunch of pediatricians. Ask you own pediatrician about reading to your kids. Go ahead. (For that matter ask their teachers, pastors, or the kids themselves. I know my kids wanted me to read to them by the time they could crawl–or at least cruise walk…).
For cripe’s sake, no one is saying that you *shouldn’t* read to your baby, and certainly not that you shouldn’t read to older kids. Just that you shouldn’t kill yourself trying to tick off all the boxes of all the many, many, many things that “good parents do.”
“There are many other ways for a parent to expose a baby to language. You can narrate your daily activities to them. You can carry them in a baby carrier and they will be exposed to all of your conversations. You can sing to them. You can plop them in a baby bouncer in the middle of roomful of kids and theyâ€™ll be exposed to plenty of social interaction, some directed at them.
But the bigger point is that most parents do not need to worry about this. Their child is not growing up in a language-deficient environment. Most children are NATURALLY exposed to more than enough language to develop their own language skills, without the parents needing any advice from experts or doing anything special. There are many, many ways to provide a home environment that exposes a child to a sufficient amount of language, and there are even many, many ways to provide a language-rich home environment. Reading aloud to babies may or may not be a part of that. But most parents naturally manage to provide their baby with sufficient language stimulation, and always have.”
This. So much this. I talk to my babies constantly. I narrate our day to them just without thinking about it. I sing to them because we both enjoy it. I hold them while talking to other people. All day, every day. My kids get a huge amount of verbal interaction. And, because I just speak normally without trying to dumb things down for them, they have fantastic vocabularies. So, no, I feel absolutely no need to “get creative” to fit another thing into my day when my babies’ needs are actually well met just by doing what comes naturally.
In fact, when I read to my older kids, I usually try to put my 6 month old down for a nap. She doesn’t really understand “reading,” so she just thinks I’m talking to her and tries to talk back. Which is adorable, and I don’t want to discourage her talking to me (I love our conversations!), but it means no one else can hear the story.
I am very much in favour of reading to and with children, at whatever age. As soon as they can listen to a voice, or see a page, or pick up a fabric or board book. Until they ask you to stop!
Which is not to say that you need to pin down a screaming infant for a mandatory 20 minutes every day. It should be enjoyable for both participants, and if it is not enjoyable (or you are worring about it) then you are not doing it right! Perhaps start with fairy stories, or nursery rhymes, or poetry, or singing, or whatever, via ABC and chapter books to … well, whatever floats your boat. Harry Potter. Narnia. Books about plants or dinosaurs or quantum physics.
Encouraging a love of reading – and having a variety books available (or borrowed from the library) – is one of the best intellectual legacies a parent can leave to their children.
seems to me more important to sing to infants than to read to them
@ anonymous mom Wed Jun 25th 2014 at 12:01 pm
RE: @Emily, would you think it was a good idea, since some kids enjoy yoga and doing it doesnâ€™t hurt, for the AAP to issue a guidelines that all parents ensure their kids are getting in 30 minutes of yoga 3-4 times a week?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should participate in activities that support the development of the whole child. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP ) does not have an official position on yoga but advises parents (with the help of their childâ€™s pediatrician) to assess if yoga is suitable for an individual child, just as they would other physical activities such as martial arts, gymnastics, ballet, etc
Remember the AAP is a group of pediatricians who collective have suggestions. You should ask your pediatrician for their thoughts on the subject maybe?
@ fred schueler
Do both! That is what AAP suggests!
Yep! Right on!
@Dirk – I read to my children. Some days. I don’t read to them everyday, and not always for 20 minutes. I like to read, and I read around them all the time. I read them stories and take them to the library. But I don’t think that it is necessary to read to them for a set amount of time everyday, anymore than I think it is necessary to sing to them for a certain amount of time everyday.
@Ravana There is big difference between “reading” and “reading or singing” and “reading or singing or talking at”. Reading to infant is not the simplest of those possibilities and it does not even count as bonding.
I get nothing from reading out loud, no matter how much I like the actual text. And forcing an uninterested baby to listen is not bonding, it is enforcing my will over babies.
My kids actually liked singing and when they were babies. They also liked being talked at, but that involved me waiting for their reactions and reacting back. They were not interested in me blabling while looking at piece of paper.
And seriously, box of cereals? It sounds like a magic – if parent pronounce words while looking at them written, the impact of his words on infant shall be much bigger.
The last point is what I have the most about that sort of advice. It supposedly does not matter what the kid is read to even once the kid is ready to like it. Except that it mattered great deal with my kids and I suspect it matter as much with plenty of others kids. They were never in “love reading anything” phase, if that even exist. The text being read always mattered a lot.
Maybe that kind of thinking is why children sections of bookstores are filled with crap. The magic is supposed to work once there are words on paper, the content is never mentioned anywhere.
I do not mind authorities giving advice, I mind it much less then some on this site. However, the advice should be accurate not based on “activity is unlikely to cause harm and I personally enjoyed them, therefore everyone else must do it”.
1) what were your favorite books growing up and 2) what are you reading now?
1) I liked the Choice Your Own Adventure books a lot as a kid, when I was little I remember Dr. Suess and some Sesame Street books. I remember my grandmother reading to me from books from when she was little.
2) I read a lot for work now and not much fiction…
The American Academy of Pediatricsâ€”an organization of 62,000 pediatricians committed to the optimal physical, mental, and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.
They are not giving this advice because it does no harm or because they have nothing better to do. These people, who are experts in their field by the way (maybe you feel that term is bad?), these pediatricians are using their knowledge and experience in their work with children coupled with research conducted by themselves and other experts and coming up with recommendations. You can choose to believe what you want, but they certainly are not saying your child is doomed to failure if you don’t read to them, they are saying it might help them a bit. That is it…
Go ask your pediatrician their opinion…
I personally did all of the things described to build language. I played word or rhyming games. Narrated my activities to them. Just chit chatted to them. Read to them. Etc. So no one is saying you can only do one way. I did them all. Where is my trophy? Just kidding.
I think reading to your kids is not just about building language. It is also about establishing importance of books in your lives.
My friend claimed she could not read to her daughter but I read to her when I babysat her just fine. She also used the squirming away excuse. But when she got somewhere early instead of whipping out a book to read to her for a few minutes she instead got on her phone to text and play candy crush. Which is fine to do, I do it too. But like with everything there is a happy medium. Don’t whine you can’t read to your kids when there are opportunities to do so, you just are not taking them for whatever reason.
1) what were your favorite books growing up and 2) what are you reading now?
1) Tom Sawyer, which I think I first read at the age of 9 and probably re-read 50 times. At an earlier age, my favorite was Dr Seuss’s “On Beyond Zebra”. Never liked “The Cat in the Hat”.
2) Curt Sampson’s biography of Ben Hogan.
Andy: “It sounds like a magic â€“ if parent pronounce words while looking at them written, the impact of his words on infant shall be much bigger.”
Yes. Why is reading, say, the New York Times to your baby “bonding”? You aren’t doing anything the baby is actually interested in. You aren’t making eye contact with the baby. I talk enough during the day that my babies don’t really need to hear the sound of my voice more than they do, and a lot of this reading to infants just sounds like an exercise in the child hearing your voice. In terms of actual language and social development, reading aloud is not any different–and perhaps less interactive and reciprocal–than many other forms of baby-parent verbal interaction.
@Michelle, I also tend to save read-aloud time for the little ones’ nap times. Because in my house, too, infants and toddlers tend to disrupt reading time. While that’s cute and sweet and all that, my babies/toddlers half-listening to stories they don’t understand is much less important to me than my older kids genuinely enjoying and learning from stories.
On a side note, I think we overestimate the impact of reading aloud to babies and toddlers and underestimate the impact of reading aloud to older children. In terms of school performance and love of reading, I think we’d be better off encouraging people to continue reading aloud to their kids once their kids are old enough to read (books that both the parent and child can enjoy together) than issuing guidelines about reading aloud to newborns.
“My friend claimed she could not read to her daughter but I read to her when I babysat her just fine. She also used the squirming away excuse. But when she got somewhere early instead of whipping out a book to read to her for a few minutes she instead got on her phone to text and play candy crush. Which is fine to do, I do it too. But like with everything there is a happy medium. Donâ€™t whine you canâ€™t read to your kids when there are opportunities to do so, you just are not taking them for whatever reason.”
Maybe, just maybe, your friend didn’t read to her baby because she didn’t want to, and because she felt that her baby was happy and healthy and had her needs met well enough that she didn’t feel like she needed to try to optimize every single minute of her day. Maybe your friend made up an excuse to get *you* off her back, since you were so clearly judging her about it.
My favorite books growing up were Dr Seuss, Babysitters club, Mr Men and Little Miss books, Berenstein bears, Wayside School, Ramona books, Amelia Bedelia.
My mother read to me so much as a kid she ran out of stuff to read at the library and home so she read me the dictionary. True story.
My mom saved most of my good little children’s books and I read them now to my kids. Their favorites are Berenstein bears, Mr. Men and Little Miss books, Clifford books, books about stuff they like such as Star wars or super heros. My advanced reader is reading 2 chapters in a Magic Treehouse book every day.
@ Rachel @ Wife Then Mama
Cool! So you are doing exactly what the AAP would want. You read to your kids! They aren’t providing some sort of system. You can ask your own pediatrician!
Don’t forget that crucial bit of parent / infant bonding, a process I called “going over the piggies.” It reinforces many critical intellectual skills — for example, I often forget which fucking piggies goes to the market and which poor little piece of bacon-on-the-hoof stays home.
Or maybe you are making assumptions and judgement about me Michelle? For the record and to make you look wrong as you are, she brought the situation up. I was posting on facebook that since we read at least 20 minutes a night at bed time that in a year I spend X number of hours reading to my kids and it was a lot. I just was posting it for fun.
Then she commented on her own that she wishes she could read to her daughter blah blah blah. No one was saying anything about her. Then when I babysat her I just brought up what activities we did and that included reading books.
So you pretty much owe me an apology but I doubt I will get it.
@SOA, I don’t whine about not reading to my babies/toddlers (not KIDS, but babies and uninterested toddlers) because it’s hard.
I don’t read to babies and uninterested toddlers because, frankly, I think it’s a pointless exercise in listening to my own voice (which my children do enough of), rather than actually interacting or bonding with my child. I will happily read a book to any child who brings one to me, and once they are old enough to actually understand a story, I make reading to them part of their bedtime routine. For my oldest, it’s a huge part of school. But, I’m not going to pretend there’s some magic in a baby hearing me read words off a page. There isn’t.
I’m sorry your friend dared to play a game rather than read a book to a toddler. Your children will no doubt be vastly superior to hers in every way. Perhaps you can just rest easily knowing that.
SOA, I sincerely doubt that you get many apologies by telling people that you are owned one. That’s one of the rudest things I have ever heard. Secondly, you just told everyone here that you do judge your friend. You just bad-mouthed her to the whole internet. Third, you say she brought it up, and then say it was in response to you talking about reading to your kids? You obviously have no grasp of how judgmental you come off pretty much all the time. If I was your friend, I would be constantly wondering what you are judging *me* about. It would not surprise me in the least if someone felt they needed to pre-emptively justify why they don’t do things the way you do.
Given Dolly’s continued displays of social disfunction, I highly doubt her kids will be superior to anyone.
Michelle: So I can’t post anything about myself on my facebook page without worrying that someone might read it and then feel the need to justify themselves to it in the comments? She did not have to comment. She did not have to even do anything but scroll right past it. She was obviously feeling defensive about it due to her own guilt about not reading to her daughter, and that is her issue. I have the right to talk about myself without worrying that someone somewhere might get offended by it.
I don’t see how saying “I just did the math in my head and I read around 7,280 minutes a year to my kids! LOL” somehow is judging or saying anything about or to her. I posted that as my status and she then felt the need to jump in and start saying “I wish I could read to my daughter but she won’t allow me to blah blah”. She did not have to respond to it at all.
@Dirk, I’m not sure what part of the difference between reading to KIDS and reading to NEWBORNS you aren’t getting.
Nobody is saying people shouldn’t read to their kids, or that reading to kids is beneficial.
But, if anybody thinks that a mom taking her baby in for their six-week check-up needs, on top of being asked questions to ensure she’s feeding her kid the right way, sitting them in a car seat the right way, having them sleep in the right position, and the dozens of other questions she’ll be asked, to also be asked if she’s taking the time to read to the baby every day, they haven’t had a new baby in a while. New parents do not need one more thing to put on the ever-growing list of things they must do with babies to be good parents, especially when language exposure is simply not even an issue for most kids.
If I have the time and energy to do read alouds in the weeks after the new baby is born, I’ll expend it on reading to my older kids, when it will genuinely be a time of bonding and of learning, rather than spending it reading to a newborn who has no idea what the hell is going on anyway.
Honestly, I wish the AAP spent more time addressing the measles outbreaks in Ohio and California than adding yet another recommendation to the eye rolls of exhausted parents.
Yes, reading to babies is a good thing. Singing, lullabies, and reading stories are all nurturing activities that have been going on before the AAP was even founded. I read to my babies as part of their nap/bed routine and rocked them. The books were often eaten and chewed. I honestly didn’t do it for brain growth but to get them to sleep (and I am reminded of the hilarious Go the F@ck to Sleep book). Our all-time favorite was The Very Hungry Caterpillar as they love to stick their meaty little fingers in the holes. And that caterpillar was a total binge eater.
Reading is a nice activity to share with children of all ages. So is organic farming and learning Irish jigs. Save the recommendations for important pediatric health issues and not idealist, brain-optimized wonder children.
@lora: I think the point is the cultivation of anxiety in parents. “Read to your kids from birth because this is a developmental opportunity” is just the nice way to put it. It’s really just another expression of “Do this or ruin your kid.”
I followed this directive before it became official, BTW. You can tell my babies’ favorite books; they’re torn or partially dissolved by slobber. They just plain did not care about the stories!
Warren: well my son is already superior to most of the kids in his class on intellectual ability, reading and grades. So guess you just got proved wrong. He had the highest grades in his class, highest reading level and won most of the academic awards throughout the year. So tell me again, how my kids are never going to be superior at anything?
I don’t give a crap whether someone reads to their kid or not. If you don’t want to, then don’t. You don’t need to try to justify it to anyone unless you are feeling insecure about it.
This is a free-range issue because it is in the early stages of becoming a recommendation. At a later stage it might become a guideline. Supervision guidelines might as well be laws. People lose custody of kids over them. We are losing more and more freedoms and have to answer to more and more people over more and more aspects of parenting. It’s summer and one Saturday we slept late and ate breakfast closer to lunch time than breakfast time. I then had to take my daughter to the doctor for a newly developed ear infection. The doctor asked if we had eaten “lunch” yet. My daughter told him we planned to have something she liked on the way home. I could tell he disapproved of us being so far off schedule. He’s a Saturday doctor, not the usual. The disapproval made me uncomfortable as some of the people in my circle have had encounters with CPS. Fortunately, no one has permanently lost kids. We should have the freedom to read or not read, sleep late or get up early for some activity as we choose without the trappings of the opinions of others. Doctors disapproval and possible CPS intervention should not affect things so much, but where I live it does. CPS gets around to everyone it seems and the doctors check up on some things that I’m not sure really belong in the office visit. My daughter’s school all but requires reading every night. I’m supposed to fill out a paper saying how many minutes we read. Needless to say as soon as it was something we’re supposed to do she doesn’t like it any longer. I like to read and try, but it isn’t a fun thing that is just between us any longer and doesn’t feel the same. It is possible for the schools, social workers, and politicians to make this fun little activity a chore and something kids don’t look forward to. We have to be free to do it on our schedule and read the number of minutes we want to. If it is required 5 nights a week and 2 of the nights we can’t easily fit it in it is then a chore.
I have zero fear of this becoming a law. How would they even enforce it? Are they going to have someone in your house 24/7 making sure you read to your kids? Government will never have that kind of money. Politicians want their salaries to be too high to ever afford that.
@SOA: “I donâ€™t see how saying ‘I just did the math in my head and I read around 7,280 minutes a year to my kids! LOL’ somehow is judging or saying anything about or to her. I posted that as my status and she then felt the need to jump in and start saying ‘I wish I could read to my daughter but she wonâ€™t allow me to blah blah.’ She did not have to respond to it at all.”
Well, I personally wouldn’t have responded, but I’m sure you are aware on some level that what you posted was a brag on what a great parent you are (and on how great you are at mental math!). That tends to rub people the wrong way, for good reason. It’s possible the reason you think everybody around you is such a crappy parent is because they, like most people, do not brag about their parenting in public, because most people don’t feel okay about doing that. Like, I can’t imagine feeling okay about posting about how much I read to my kids, and I wouldn’t blame others for seeing that as my bragging about being a better parent than they are (I mean, I certainly wouldn’t be like, “I made my kids three meals today!” Unless you think something is pretty extraordinary, you probably won’t mention it.)
I’m not sure why not whipping out a book when you are waiting somewhere means you don’t read to your kid. Even my kids who LOVE being read to don’t like being read to when we’re out. When we’re out, there’s too much new stuff to see and do.
By the way, there is also a correlation between lots of early reading and acquired vision problems. (Says this mom of an early reader who needed bifocals at age 6.)
Another thing. What if readers are simply wired for reading genetically? Or is that politically incorrect to say?
I agree however that reading should not feel like a chore. If you hate it that much, don’t do it. I don’t approve of reading logs for school for example. I just lie and we say we did it. But I am not going to sit there and time them to the minute. I make sure they read but we are not making it a chore.
So this with everything else is just about finding a happy medium that works for you.
I did not time how long I read to my kids. Some days if we were busy or had company we probably did not read at all. Some days we read for hours. If nothing else maybe putting this recommendation out there is just to educate people who don’t know (and some low income low educated people really don’t know) that reading is good for kids and to try to do so with them. Nobody has to get their panties in a bunch about it.
@K, I had the same experience with my son and reading when he was at the charter school. We had to fill in a chart indicating that he’d read for 20 minutes each day (and the author, book, and number of pages). As soon as it was an assignment, suddenly my kid who loves to read never wanted to (and if he did, he never wanted to fill in his chart).
Since we’ve been homeschooling again, he’s back to reading in his room for 1-2 hours before bed, and I have to force him to stop reading and sleep. It’s amazing how something enjoyable becomes a chore as soon as it’s required.
@SOA So, your friends baby was happily amusing itself in waiting room, playing alone and you judge her for not interrupting him and not making those few minutes more educational? I guess that parents should never relax and take few minutes for themselves.
Although I doubt she had following in mind, allowing babies to play uninterrupted when they are happy to is supposed to raise both their attention span and ability to play for longer time. Lets all be judgmental about that too.
@SKL, I agree there is a significant genetic component to intelligence and to things like reading skill. NOT racial, NOT ethnic, but genetic. It’s very, very possible that the reason that college-educated parents have kids who do better in school is not because they speak more words or have more books around, but because they’re just genetically wired to be more academically successful. That doesn’t make them better or more useful people, just people with a certain innate set of skills.
well that friend in particular admitted to me on her own that she cannot get her daughter to sit through a book. So I suggested the car seat or bath or high chair trick and she made excuses about not wanting to do that. So I said “Okay then” and left it at that.
You must not use facebook like most people I know use it. Around here people post what they are doing. So I can’t post a pic of me and the kids at the zoo because that might come across as bragging that I take my kids places fun and educational? I can’t post that my son lost his tooth because that is bragging my son is growing up? I can’t post that I am so proud of my son that he is reading a grade level higher? Because I post that kind of stuff the same time I post things about my son getting suspended again for having an autistic meltdown at school. Or about him being diagnosed with autism. Good Lord excuse me for wanting to post something funny or interesting or pleasant or fun to offset the bad things I have to post.
Heck yesterday I posted about my Grandmother being super close to death and then later that day posted pictures of a fun trip I took with my kids. That is what facebook is for. Telling about your life. And anyone that knows me knows I don’t brag. I would be the first one to tell you how many messed up things my kids do or my parenting mistakes the same breath I tell you something positive.
If you enjoy reading out loud, then your baby will pick up on your enjoyment. It you hate it, it will come out in your tone of voice, and your baby will feel that you are miserable.
I love to sing, so I sang to my daughter all the time. My daughter now has a lovely singing voice, and she also has perfect pitch. I have NO idea if that has anything to do with me or not, and frankly I don’t care.
The funny thing is, now that she’s becoming a tween, she HATES it when I sing along with her. “Mama, quit it!” What’s up with that? I like Frozen as much as the next person!
What ever happened to the advice of just talking to your infants? Talk to them about work, a memory, or what you are doing. Those interactions are important and a lot less stressful then trying to find time to read to them every day.
Andy: wtF are you even talking about? Waiting room? Huh? I never said anything about a waiting room or about her daughter happily playing.
I said if you get somewhere early and are waiting in the car, you can read them a book while they are strapped into the car seat. No waiting room. No happily playing. You can’t happily play strapped into a car seat usually. But instead she said that she would get on her phone in that situation and so no that won’t work for reading to her daughter then.
Repeat after me, “Hawthorne Effect.” Children who spend more time with their parents might do better in school because their parents spent more time with them. Note that I did not mention any specific activity. My earliest memory is in daycare, falling off a teeter-totter and scraping my knee. I remembered the smell of the antiseptic ten years later. As chemists my parents did not use the popular brand. So, ten years after the fact I remembered the smell of Bactine(TM). I do not remember my parents reading to me though I am sure they did. My dad’s line after a shopping trip was, “I did not buy anything, I bought a book.” The joke was not that he considered a book nothing, but rather he bought a book on ALL shopping trips. Clearly read to, but forgot that it happened.
I don’t think Lenore’s skepticism is about reading to CHILDREN as much as it is about reading to INFANTS. When my grand nephews were ages 3-5, I would read them bedtime stories during my visits as a way to tuck them in. It would give some much needed relief to my niece and her husband who read to them every night and it was a way for me to bond with them. They are now grown up and very well-educated but I’m not so sure if reading to them before bedtime as little children had any role in them being so smart now as adults. But they certainly enjoyed the bedtime stories at ages 3-5 whereas I am not so sure an INFANT would appreciate a children’s story being read to them. I would think an infant would be too immature and undeveloped to process a story being read or told to them. I’m talking about INFANTS and not young children.
@SOA: “I said if you get somewhere early and are waiting in the car, you can read them a book while they are strapped into the car seat.”
So she’s a bad parent because she wouldn’t do something that like 99% of parents don’t do? As a parent who doesn’t feel the need to provide enrichment for my child every moment, sitting in the car waiting for something is exactly the kind of situation where I’d pull out my phone, play a game, and allow them to just chill. A few minutes without any interaction or enrichment won’t hurt them.
Honestly, I’m not even sure what the benefit of reading in that situation would be. With really little kids, the main benefit of reading does seem to be the parent-child interaction: having the kid snuggle in your lap, letting them help turn pages, etc. If I’m just sitting in the driver seat reading a book to a child in the back, how is that different than my just putting on NPR? What is the magical power of my voice reading words from a book?
I don’t think you are getting what I am saying. She was complaining that she could not read to her daughter and so I said that would be a good time to do so as the daughter is not going anywhere since she is strapped in and it is not like she can do anything else at that moment.
So it was just a suggestion and she did not take it. Which is fine, but then why are you complaining about not being able to read to your daughter when apparently there are chances to do so and you are just not taking them?
That is like me complaining my son won’t eat food but then I never actually give him food. Well duh. If you don’t try, then of course it won’t happen.
When I get somewhere early I don’t always take those few minutes to read to the kids either. But the point is I don’t complain about never having time to read to them either.
Some of us are saying though that we did read to our infants and found it beneficial. Mine could not even sit up yet but I put them in bouncy seats and read to them while they mouthed on toys. It seemed to calm them down to just hear my voice and know that I guess I was there nearby and they were not alone.
I read kids books but honestly it would have worked just as well reading whatever book I was reading at said time even Stephen King.
“…if it is not enjoyable (or you are worring about it) then you are not doing it right!”
No, if it’s not enjoyable you should stop doing it for now.
I think it’s great if a parent gives it a try, but let’s get real, your newborn does not care and it is not going to matter until he’s older.
People with newborns often have a lot of things to deal with – sleep issues of both kid and parent, feeding issues, elimination issues, skin issues, some kids have developmental issues and need various types of therapies, and then you have older siblings (or twins), friends and relatives visiting, the mom trying to get back into her usual physical state of comfort, figuring out the logistics of laundry and all sorts of other things. Meanwhile the parents are focused on developing a healthy bond with the baby, which is easier for some kids than for others. Reading to your baby is a nice-to-have and it should never be presented in a way that guilts parents who don’t manage to make it happen until the kid is older.
I think all kids should be read to a fair amount before they enter KG. I think it has the most effect once the kid is old enough to understand the progress of a story. Looking at images and hearing words can be done in many contexts; books are just a really convenient way to do that, IF it works for you.
Rather than recommend reading to a baby from birth, I prefer the advice that it’s never too early to enjoy reading with your child.
I agree with Violet. Reading isn’t a bad thing, it’s how it’s conveyed to us. And how it’s conveyed by “experts” is if you don’t read to your child, they will not succeed in their future.
I’m no “expert”, but I have taken care of children (mine, nieces, nephews, friends’ children) for many years. Some have read and did math with their children starting at age 1. While others just played with them. Interacted with them. Working on hand and eye coordination. Placing names with objects. Showing emotions corresponding with what is being done. Infants and toddlers do not understand words, but they do understand facial expressions, sounds (inflections relating situations, ie. high pitched voice for excitement, or low short for “no-no’s”), and believe it or not, they also feel our energy. Including happiness, sadness and fears.
Encouraging brain activities at an early age, promotes the desire to learn more as they get older. So when they get to the age of 3 were they can start understanding words, and saying words, they can just as easily learn them at that age, than at 6 months. That’s my take anyway. A couple of the children I’ve help take care of are now in University, smart and intelligent. And they didn’t start reading till the age of 4.
@SKL: Exactly. It’s just not a useful demand to put on new parents, who already have enough adjustments to make. If we’re truly worried about newborns having insufficient language exposure (which I think is an invalid fear in most households), then encouraging the mother to narrate daily activities is much more doable and less guilt-inducing than expecting them to set aside 15-20 minutes of reading time consistently.
I do wonder if the reason we don’t see just talking to and narrating for a baby recommended more is because these recommendations were designed for children from language-deficient homes, which also tend to be homes where parents speak non-standard English dialects. So perhaps the fear was that parents simply speaking to their children would be instilling “bad” speech habits, and reading aloud was safer because most children’s books are written in standard English. However, most children’s books are not particularly sophisticated or well-written, so I actually think, in terms of simple exposure to language (instead of specific exposure to reading, which will become important later on), many kids are probably going to get more (like more words, more new vocabulary, more syntactical structures) out of being talked to by a parent for 15 minutes or being held while their parent has a 20 minute conversation than hearing 15-20 minutes of board books read to them.
No one should feel guilty if they don’t read to their child all the time, but I think it is a great thing to do.
We started with our first as an infant. Not 15-20 minutes, but we at least read at bed time every night, just one book, no matter how short. Luckily he was such a good reader so early that he reads to his younger brothers if we don’t have time.
The other benefit is the bed time routine. Go through the same basic routine every night and kids go to sleep easier, making Mommy and Daddy’s life easier. Our routine was (and still is for the youngest)read one book and sing two songs.
It’s the media presenting these things as imperatives that is the problem. There is nothing wrong with suggesting a great idea.
All I know is that I read to my daughter and she just got done with second grade reading at six grade level. She knew her letters and numbers at two. Maybe it’s genetics. But a kid can’t learn something she’s not exposed to. But I also STILL read to her. I don’t think it’s wrong to read to your child. I don’t think it’s wrong to limit screen time. I thought you were against kids playing video games all the time and not going outside? I have read also that there are benefits (like going to college and not jail) that kids who are encouraged to read at home actually do benefit from. It is a very simple thing to work reading into a bed time routine. Very simple.
@Paul Shutz Your post could have been written by my husband. He was a stay-at-home Dad when our daughter was an infant. He was also working on his PhD dissertation and would read what he was reading out loud to her because he wanted to read it and it made Emma happy — it was a way for them to engage with each other. Now as you said we dont’ know if this is one of the reasons that she is extremely verbal and in Honors English in High School — or if it was because we also talked to her like an adult using real words and not baby talk. I do know that I was already stressed out about breast feeding and if I had been made to feel stressed out about not reading aloud to her that the STRESS would have been bad for our relationship. I think the main benefit is to form a relationship and bond with your infant right away in whatever way works for you — but I don’t see a problem in encouraging parents to read aloud to infants — but it certainly doesn’t have to be kid books — in fact I think parents should just read aloud what they are reading! Our daughter listened to the entire Odyssey and the Illyad before she turned one.
I’d be very interested in any study finding that a child raised in a language-rich (or even language-sufficient) environment has better outcomes if, as a baby, their parent read them one short book a night. I’m not aware of any such research. All of the research I’ve seen makes it pretty clear that we’re talking about factors far larger than that–deficits of tens of thousands of words a day, for example–when we’re talking about outcomes.
@ anonymous mom Wed Jun 25th 2014 at 12:53 pm
@Dirk, Iâ€™m not sure what part of the difference between reading to KIDS and reading to NEWBORNS you arenâ€™t getting.
Go talk to your pediatrician. Ask them about the advise from the AAP. I mean it. You should ask her or him these questions.
By the way no one has seen these recommendations yet. They haven’t been published yet. I will bet you a million to one at 6 months it is listed as something to get in the habit of doing, reading to your kids. Because a lot of people do not.
So Dolly says that for children that do not enjoy sitting there and being read to, should be strapped in and forced to listen to you reading.
Next we will have students chained to their desks untill homework is done.
Way to go.
First, Lenore is not saying that you shouldn’t read to your infants. She is protesting the insistence that we HAVE to read to our infants.
Second, studies have shown that reading to children is NOT what cultivates a love of reading. Reading yourself is what cultivates a love of reading in your children. One interesting study showed that children who have books in the home, indicating that a parent enjoys reading, read better than children who have no books in the home. This is true even if the first group is never read to and the second group is extensively read to via library books. While it is true that parents who love to read probably do read more to their children, it is the enjoyment that is imperative. If you hate to read, but read non-stop to your child, your child is not more inclined to like reading than one who is never read to.
Third, statements like “I read to my child and that is why she likes to read” are ridiculous. You have no idea if reading to your child had any impact or not. It is not as though you can go back and raise the exact same child without reading to him/her and see what the outcome is. You are claiming causation when you have, at best, correlation.
I was not a big reader to my child. We did some, but reading out loud gives me a headache so I don’t particularly enjoy it. I didn’t read to her at all as an infant. Read more frequently during the toddler and preschool years. Stopped totally as soon as she could read for herself. But I do read frequently myself. My daughter loves to read and reads at a 6th grade level in 2nd grade. I think that is just 100% who she is as a person and not a reflection of anything I’ve done except maybe give her a genetic predisposition for reading.
The point pediatricians are making (the doctors who are in the AAP) is that 1. reading to infants most likely has some positives on it’s own, and 2. start getting into the habit of reading to your kids right away. That is it. Go ask your pediatrician.
“I have read also that there are benefits (like going to college and not jail) that kids who are encouraged to read at home actually do benefit from.”
This is my problem with these kinds of recommendations. The reasons why a person might end up in jail rather than college are FAR more complicated than how much their parent read to them. A child from a solidly middle-class white home with two college-educated parents who is NEVER read to is still going to be much more likely to go to college rather than jail than a child from an impoverished inner-city minority home who was read to 15 minutes a day. They are individualizing institutional problems.
I also think people are maybe misunderstanding what the problem that initiated this kind of research and recommendation was. It was NOT that they were looking at average children and average families and realized that, wait, the kid who is read to for 20 minutes every day does better than the kid who is read to 5 minutes a day.
The research this arises from was done in extremely impoverished communities, with a couple of the most notable being done in Appalachia, among families who, in the 1980s, often lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. (Some was also done on inner-city communities.) Researchers found that, within those communities, many children were not simply not read to enough, or at all, but were not spoken to or verbally interacted with AT ALL. For a wide variety of reasons, some having to do with traditions that had been passed down, some with practical constraints, parents basically ignored their kids until the kids were old enough to talk to them (and even then had minimal verbal interactions). They meet their physical needs, but they made no attempt to engage verbally with the children. And the researchers hypothesized that part of the reason for those children’s poor school performance was this early language deficit, and that encouraging more verbal interaction on the part of the parents could be one way to help raise these children out of the dire poverty they were raised in.
I have no idea why we started generalizing the kinds of recommendations made into advice for all parents everywhere. There was no indication in the research that children who were not from language-deficient homes required any interventions or additional verbal interaction.
Meant to say 6 weeks instead of 6 months in that last post. At any rate I don’t miss the point. Reading to anyone of any age is a good thing. Current research says it does sciencey good stuff for infants. Believe what you choose to believe but your own doctor believes it to a degree as well…
Don’t just knee jerk it and say/think why in my day we used to eat books not read em…read to a baby why that is insanity!!! Come one. It is something that most people I know do anyway. Nobody ever said not reading to a 6 week old dooms them to failures. The perceived problem by pediatricians is in large part due to things like statistically significant chunks of kids getting to kindergarten having never been read to and not knowing what letters are. The point pediatricians are making (the doctors who are in the AAP) is that 1) reading to infants most likely has some positives on it’s own, and 2) start getting into the habit of reading to your kids right away. That is it.
GO TALK TO YOUR PEDIATRICIAN NOT SOME RANDOMS ON THE INTERNET!!!
@ Donna Wed Jun 25th 2014 at 2:18 pm
First, Lenore is not saying that you shouldnâ€™t read to your infants. She is protesting the insistence that we HAVE to read to our infants.
My response: Reading to kids of any age is a good idea.
@ Donna Wed Jun 25th 2014 at 2:18 pm
First, Lenore is not saying that you shouldnâ€™t read to your infants. She is protesting the insistence that we HAVE to read to our infants.
Another response: You don’t HAVE to do anything. Your pediatrician is going to say it is a good idea. They won’t say you have to.
Does an infant really know the difference between when mommy or daddy is speaking, conversationally vs. “reading”. Come on…. Hearing parents’ voices is important. High Brow Content, not so much…Not as an infant.
Got to disagree on this one. Reading out loud (a lot) to all five of our kids seems to have provided some great benefits. Don’t know why Lenore chose to speak out on this. From my experience, reading early and often to kids seems to foster intellectual independence and the ability to communicate well with adults from an early age.
I am not a big fan of reading at bedtime. For my kids, reading is a mental stimulant and makes it harder for them to go to sleep. For my kids as babies, bedtime usually meant being placed in their beds, lights turned off, doors closed. The whole creative “bedtime routine” started when they were maybe 2 and changed from time to time.
If bedtime reading works for you, go for it, but don’t assume it’s “easy” or the most logical choice for everyone else.
When my kids were infants, they were in foster care in a non-English speaking country, and I don’t think they were read to. When they came home at 9mos and 12mos, I introduced them to books and played it by ear. They started potty training weeks later, and it worked out that most of the time that I read to them was when they were on potties, LOL. Captive audience, right? Other times I’d read at the table (still do sometimes). There were seasons when I almost never had time to read to them, but they were in a good preschool then so I felt that was good enough. Most importantly, I feel, they were surrounded by books and free to use them. When they showed interest, I responded by meeting them where they were. This was what felt right to me, and the results back me up. If I’d had different kids, I might have raised them differently. There is no one right way.
I get your point. . . . but still. By the time kids get to school, kids from disadvantaged backgrounds are already way behind because, it is believed (with some scientific background, though I’m not able to vouch for its validity) of a lack of access to words. The disadvantage sticks around for a long time. Not everyone knows that reading can help overcome that. I remember an interview with Geoffrey Canada, the founder of Harlem Children’s Zone, where he discussed his own realization about how middle class parents already knew this sort of thing, and he had not, and realizing that his kids missed out on a lot as a result – and resolving not to let other kids miss out as well.
I guess this fits into your theme about others telling us how to raise our kids, but I do wonder whether, sometimes, the issue is not what we are told but what we do with it. It is useful to know these things. If you take it as gospel that dictates what you do, you are trapped and constrained by it. If you take it as information that guides what is important to you, it’s helpful. I read a lot of expert information, and sometimes I did (when my kids were younger and I was newer at this) get totally caught up in it – but I would catch myself and remind myself that kids grow up healthy and intelligent without all these advantages, and I do not have to make myself a slave to them. If a parent can’t do that, isn’t that the parent’s issue as much as the “experts”? Isn’t some of this asking us as adults to decide how to make use of this information in raising our kids?
THis kind of early access to language is so important to the development of kids, and such an important element in the early inequality that many kids suffer, that I actually saw this and thought “Great, they’re getting the word out! Maybe that will help some people know how to help their kids!”
@Dirk: “Reading to anyone of any age is a good thing. Current research says it does sciencey good stuff for infants.”
Have you read any of these studies? Do you know what any of this “sciencey good stuff” is or what exactly researchers found?
I am an educator with a background in literacy. My husband is a neuroscientist. We are familiar with the research. We both believe that drawing these kinds of conclusions–“Reading to an infant 20 minutes a day promotes necessary brain development!”–from the existing research is nonsense.
First, we have no evidence that infant brains respond differently to being read to from a book than from simply being talked to by their parents. NONE. And even without the total lack of evidence, it’s an inane notion. The idea that it doesn’t matter if you read your infant Sandra Boynton, Shakespeare, or the ingredient list on the cereal box, because they can’t tell the difference, but somehow they can tell the difference between you reading from a printed page and you talking to them is totally illogical.
Second, we have no evidence that for children from average, non-language-deprived homes, the amount of time they were read to makes any difference in how much they like to read or their school performance. NONE.
Third, the research we do have on things like school performance and reading habits indicate that factors other than either amount of time being read to aloud or age at which reading aloud began are far more important.
This is just one more parenting practice for people to feel smug about, for no reason. If you enjoy reading poetry to your baby, read it. But, your baby does not care. You are doing it because YOU enjoy it. And, that’s fine; spend time doing things you like with your baby. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking your raising a super-child because of it.
“GO TALK TO YOUR PEDIATRICIAN NOT SOME RANDOMS ON THE INTERNET!!!”
Aren’t pediatricians just medical doctors? Who went to medical school and happened to specialize in childhood medicine as opposed to heart surgery?
By all means, if I have a question about my child’s medical care or health, I call my pediatrician. If I have a question about my child’s education or intellect, I’m a lot more likely to talk to her teachers than to call up the pediatrician.
@Erica: “By the time kids get to school, kids from disadvantaged backgrounds are already way behind because, it is believed (with some scientific background, though Iâ€™m not able to vouch for its validity) of a lack of access to words. The disadvantage sticks around for a long time. Not everyone knows that reading can help overcome that.”
Any advantage gained by early literacy intervention is lost by third grade, when we’re talking about kids from language-deficient backgrounds. The educational outcomes of these kids is affected by far more than how many words are spoken to them. IMO, we’ve simply taken one symptom of the larger problem–poverty–and decided to treat that symptom as the cause, so we don’t have to address the real problem.
And the other issue is that we’ve actually seen literacy and graduation rates for poor and/or minority students rising, but their actual socioeconomic circumstances have been getting worse. Poor minorities now have more education, more literacy, less wealth, and higher unemployment than they did several decades ago, before all of these interventions were recommended. These interventions have NOT lifted people out of poverty as had been hoped. These issues are far, far more systematic and complex than we would like them to be. Encouraging at-risk parents to read aloud to their babies is at best a band-aid, at worst a way of blaming the victims of an unjust system for their own situations.
YES! Good, go ask your teachers what they think. Ask them if reading to a kid less than one year old (that’s what we are really talking about here, getting into the habit of reading nice and early) ask them if reading to a 6 month old is a good idea. Go ahead. Do it.
A lot of people are conflating this article with opposition to reading to children. I don’t see it that way.
How many of you really, really remember your baby’s first checkup? Mine we were worrying about weight drop. She was fresh out of the NICU. I was beyond exhausted. I was still in massive pain. And I probably couldn’t tell you the last time I sat down and properly ate. I hardly managed to get out of the house for the appointment. Those first few days were awful. And I was just starting in on the beginnings of a guilt trip from not playing with my baby properly every day according to the book of guidelines handed out by the hospital in her take home bag.
I love reading plenty. I believe in reading to a baby plenty. I am practically an evangelist when it comes to talking engagingly to babies from birth … (i.e. I narrated everything I did to my daughter and as a result by 2 months I had taught my daughter some simple commands to make it easier to dress her, “switch hands” “arm up” “leg down”)…And at that point she had yet to hear a single book. The reading picked up later on, and I’m as sure it has been great for her; as I am sure that missing out on daily reading those first few months was no great detriment. (People who hear her talk mistake her for a year older than she is, I’ve had people get frustrated in disbelief at how young she started speaking clearly.)
But, at 5 days old, at her first checkup, there was no way on earth I was ready to read to her. Never mind spend the recommended 15-20 minutes a day doing so. We got her through her first book (The very hungry caterpillar) a few months later, and it was wonderful. But it was not something we were ready for at 5 days old. If you want to help the children from birth. Don’t ask about reading at the first appointment. Ask the parents how they are coping. Ask mom how her recovery is going. Ask the parents if they feel like they have the energy to play with the baby. IF they do, great talk about reading. But if they don’t, try to help them figure out how to get on their feet and save the reading lecture for a time when they are coping.
Yeah, I’m not sure why I’d ask my pediatrician about reading to my child. I am more qualified, having an academic background in literacy education, than my pediatrician to both interpret and assess the research being done (just as she is much more qualified than I am to interpret and assess medical research), and I’d be much more likely to call up a colleague who specializes in early childhood literacy if I had a question than to talk to my pediatrician, who has no training or background in the field.
@Dirk: What do you not understand about the difference between “a good idea” and “recommended for brain development”?
Lots of things could potentially be good ideas to do with kids. Ask your kid’s teacher if taking your infant on nature hikes with you is a good idea. If playing them classical music is a good idea. If taking them on a trip to the art museum is a good idea. They would not say that any of those things were NOT good ideas.
Speaking to your baby in rhyming iambic pentameter for half an hour a day might be a good idea. I bet your infant wouldn’t be any worse off if you did. So why not recommend that all parents do it? What’s the harm? If you care about your baby, it’s just half an hour out of your day, and you can spare that, right?
No one used the word necessary. I too am related to prof of neuroscience! So bully for us.
Here is the AAPs recent journal article: Literacy Promotion: An Essential Component of Primary Care Pediatric Practice (LEAD AUTHOR Pamela C. High, MD, FAAP, Past Chairperson,
Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care)
Read it yourself.
No one said anything about reading to infants = super child. You are reading into the recs from the AAP what you want to see.
Reading aloud with young children is one of the most effective ways to expose them to enriched language and to encourage specific early literacy skills needed to promote school readiness. Indeed, early, regular parent-child reading may be an epigenetic factor associated with later reading success.1,2 Yet, every year, more than 1 in 3 American children start kindergarten without the language skills they need to learn to read. Reading proficiency by the third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. Approximately two-thirds of children each
year in the United States and 80% of those living below the poverty threshold fail to develop reading proficiency by the
end of the third grade. Children from low-income families hear fewer words in early childhood and know fewer words by 3 years of age than do children from more advantaged families.
Children from low-income families have fewer literacy resources within the home, are less likely to be read to regularly, and are more likely to experience early childhood adversity and toxic stress at an early age, all resulting in
a significant learning disadvantage, even before they have access to early preschool interventions.
High PC; American Academy of Pediatrics
Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption,
and Dependent Care and Council on School
Health. School readiness. Pediatrics. 2008;
Annie E. Casey Foundation. Early Reading
Proficiency in the United States: A KIDS
COUNT Data Snapshot. Baltimore, MD:
Annie E. Casey Foundation; 2014. Available
June 5, 2014
“@Dirk: What do you not understand about the difference between â€œa good ideaâ€ and â€œrecommended for brain developmentâ€?”
There is also a big difference between responding that something is a good idea when asked and making something a definitive recommendation to which all people should be alerted. While my child’s daycare/preschool did read to the infants occasionally, it didn’t become a “thing” until much older. I’m sure if I had asked them about reading to infants that they would have endorsed it, but certainly didn’t feel so strongly about it as a necessity that they were insisting that we all must do it.
Earlier age of initiation of reading aloud with a child has been shown to be associated with better preschool language
skills and increased interest in reading.
Payne AC, Whitehurst GJ, Angell AL. The role
of literacy environment in the language
development of children from low-income
families. Early Child Res Q. 1994;9:427â€“440
Hart and Risley5 identified dramatic differences
in early language exposure of
1- and 2-year-olds in low-income families
compared with children in higher-income
families. Cognitive and linguistic differences
in children from talkative versus
taciturn families were impressive by 3
years of age and persisted into school
age. Indeed, 60% of the variance in vocabulary
in these children at 8 and 9
years of age could be explained by their
exposure to language at home, before
they were 3 years old.
Multiple studies in highrisk
populations show that the ROR
model, which includes advising parents
of infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged
children about the importance of reading
aloud, counseling parents about
specific book-related strategies, modeling,
and providing developmentally
appropriate books to children at health
supervision visits, results in parents being
more likely to read with their children
regularly.1,33â€“35 In addition, these
children are more likely to have significantly
improved language development
by the age of 24 months compared with
their peers who did not participate in
I am all for reading to your babies, but not with the notion that it HAS to be done or you are shortchanging your child’s development. I think it’s not that much different than talking to your baby throughout the day, which I tend to babble to mine nonstop as I go through my day. The point of trying to push reading is to get people talking to their babies and using language. So many families are so into their electronic devices, including TV and movies, that they don’t spend much time using language with their babies, so this encourages that. People used to keep their babies with them as they worked through their days and talk a lot to them as they worked, plus they read to them as they read their Bibles with the whole family, and the baby got exposed to a lot of language. These days, that kind of thing, talking to the baby and reading as a family, don’t happen like they used to.
I feel like making it one of those “have-to’s” makes it a chore, though, instead of a pleasurable, natural experience. I love reading to my kids and babies. I have done this, but not because I had to, simply because it came naturally to me.
Since you are transcribing the study. Could you point to the part where they show a definitive difference between initiating daily reading at 5 days old, vs. 3 months old?
Why is this more important to the well being of the child than screening mom for postpartum depression?
Berenstein response. My daughter was read the entire series. When she knew that she broke one of the rules in any of the books, she would gather and then toss her ENTIRE collection. Not yet able to read, she understood that each book dealt with a moral issue and since to her all moral issues were equivalent, she thought that by tossing the books we would forget or ignore her misbehavior. She got the message.
The AAP recommends that pediatric
providers promote early literacy development
as an important evidencebased
intervention at health supervision
visits for children beginning in infancy
and continuing at least until the age
MEANING: That pediatricians think it is a good idea to tell parents to read to their kids. And they plan on telling parents this from their first visit to them so that they actually do it. Maybe I haven’t found it yet but nowhere does it say anywhere on any AAP item that you have to read to your newborn or else something negative will happen. I will admit, however, that it does indeed say that kids who are read to regularly are often? sometimes? better than other kids at some things by about 18 to 24 months. No super baby stuff. And I am sure most kids even out at some point. But according to the articles a lot of kids (mostly low income) do not…But mainly it seems to be talking about preschool age kids. In their 8 page announcement they only use the word infant 4 times and always in conjunction with a phrase like “infant, toddler, and preschool age children.”
Seriously, the AAP thinks it is a good idea to read to kids. They say start early to get into the habit. They make no claims about super babies.
But, again, that is conflating two issues. Exposing children to the richness of language can be done simply via conversation. You don’t have to read to them. This is already done in the vast majority of non-disadvantaged households without any need for pediatric or other recommendation.
Now disadvantaged homes are a different story. My clients almost never talk to their children. They will order them around and yell at them, but I rarely see them actually engage them in conversations. And, even if they do, the language used would not be rich. It would be pretty simplistic because their vocabulary is pretty basic. Reading would be great for language exposure.
But, of these two groups, who do you think pays attention to AAP recommendations? I’ll give you a hint – it is not my clients.
They never mention 5 day olds or 3 months old. They talk mostly about 1, 2, 3, and 4 year olds and suggest people read to their kids! They say start early to get into the habit! They never mention anything about reading to babies at all. Doesn’t really seem to be what they are getting at…in fact the only reason that seems to be the topic of discussion is at the very top of this page…
As much as I loved reading to my babies (and my teenagers), I love the point Lenore is making. Just because the experts say it is a good idea, doesn’t mean you are required to do that. You may have your own very good ideas about what to do with your kids. Maybe you talk to them while you change the oil in your cars, maybe you go fishing together without much chatter at all, maybe you ask them to go grab another beer for you.
There are all kinds of good parents out there and not all of them follow the expert advice. Maybe the guy who asks his kids to run grab another beer is the guy who insists on scrupulous honesty and maybe the mom who doesn’t talk much lives a life that teaches generosity and forgiveness by example.
Kids don’t have to be academic all-stars to be successful. The idea that kids will be failures if we don’t do such-and-such is ridiculous. We all choose our own path to success.
My sister taught first grade for eons and she always was trying to get parents to read to the kids. I thought that was a good thing she was doing…until I had my own kids in school. The amount of grade school “homework” that was obviously meant to engage the parents was infuriating. We parents have enough to do. If I want to read to my kids, I will. If I don’t want to, for goodness sakes don’t send home pretend homework to get me to do it.
As Professor James Heckman argued in his keynote address at the 2007 AAP National Conference and Exhibition, programs
that invest in children at the earliest ages have the highest rates of return. That is why the AAP is making any suggestions that people read to their kids and start getting into the habit early. Donna and Hiwa, the AAP recs are not for parents. They are for pediatricians. The AAP recs go to the docs who are supposed to give free books to the parents. Donna, I know I know…you are probably thinking many of my clients are not going to get that info…the pediatricians are doing the best they can. I would think that is why the AAP is telling pediatricians to harp about it from day one right? So that when your clients do meet with them they do hear it. No?
Is that the point Lenore is making? It wasn’t the point of the AAP recs, they hardly talk about infants at all in their most recent announcement. They talk mostly about how reading to kids helps them get ready for school. They believe that childrenâ€™s literacy skills at school entry and in kindergarten and first grade often predict their later reading success.
You asked if this was more important than screening mom’s for depression? No, it isn’t. The AAP currently recommends that pediatricians screen mothers for postpartum depression at a babyâ€™s one-, two-, and four-month visits.
Hi anonymous mom,
The AAP made no recs for brain development in infants! That was Lenore’s intro, not the actual statement by the AAP. You can check it out here:
It doesn’t talk about reading to infants at all. It talks about telling parents that reading to their kids basically from age 1 to 5 will help them get ready for school. Take a moment to read it tell us what you think. Lenore didn’t really provide any of the information that is in it at all and you might be surprised!.
I’m not saying that my clients are not hearing the message. My clients have no intention of following the message. My clients have already been told 100 times to read to their children. They don’t and likely never will. It is not as though the “reading is important” message hasn’t been around for years. It is not as though the exact same parents who have been ignoring it are going to suddenly start listening because it is told to them when their children are 6 weeks instead of waiting until they are 2. They are not reading to their children because they don’t know how to read well themselves, don’t have books, don’t value education and a myriad of other reasons none of which are that they just were never told to read to their children.
The people who are going to care about this are parents who care about AAP recommendations. Those parents are already doing enough for school readiness and are now going to just be stressed out if they are not reading to their infants for the many legitimate reasons that people don’t read to infants.
I agree. All I wanted to do was sleep. From the AAP recs for pediatricians:
It looks like they are promoting reading as a habit starting as early as you can keep your eyelides up and need something to with the kids!
Really? I mean, my kids pediatrician basically told us to read to our kids from day one it seems like already…I never felt stressed about it. Seemed natural. In reality it was probably from like what? 3 months on maybe? But anyway. Pediatricians can’t just throw up their hands and so oh well about your clients. They have to try. And if you read the AAP recs
It seems that your clients are who this is aimed at really.
As for parents who hover and as you probably rightly point out are in the anxious parent category. What should they should read to their kids but can’t or don’t want to? I don’t know. They can ask their pediatrician.
The evidence shows that the most important thing for development is talking and interacting with baby – the more words she hears, the better he’ll do later one. As a bibliophile, I’m all for as much reading as possible – but not out of obligation, out of love and bonding or fun.
Talking is the key.
Is that the point Lenore is making? It wasnâ€™t the point of the AAP recs, they hardly talk about infants at all in their most recent announcement.
I hardly talked about babies at all in my comment, either.
What is your dog in this fight, Dirk? Are you a bookseller or the secretary for the AAP?
Hi anonymous mom,
Infants don’t seem to be the focus of the AAP recs for pediatricians, it seems to be about being ready for school and talks a bunch more about toddlers and preschoolers than infants. It only uses the word infant 4 times in 8 pages.
I agree with Jenny K!
“I love the point Lenore is making. Just because the experts say it is a good idea, doesnâ€™t mean you are required to do that.”
Lenore’s point was based on the title she gave this entry: “Do We Really Have to Read to Our INFANTS” but she failed to mention that infants isn’t the point of the AAP recs for other pediatricians, the point of the AAP recs was that reading to all children is good. Which it is… And that they think it is a good idea to start earlier rather than later or not at all.
Jenny K is right and so is Donna, interaction and talking with your kids is also good. But it doesn’t prepare them for reading and writing which is what the AAP recs for pediatricians is all about.
I love Lenore, but she loves a sensational headline doesn’t she!
I love to read and do so for pleasure daily.
My husband hates it. He’d rather work on his antique car and tend the garden or play ball with the kids. I agree with others that some are just wired for it differently than others.
As for my kids, I read constantly to my oldest child who, like his father, prefers more active pursuits. He reads to get by in school(where he gets A’s and B’s) but has to be dragged by his ear to pick out a book from the library. My middle daughter totally got the shaft with the reading at early ages yet she talked in sentences at age 1 and has better fluency and comprehension of reading material than her older brother. I let her read until after her bedtime most nights (she’ll read for hours). The youngest got the least attention and reads for pleasure all the time and writes her own books too. I think all the books were chewed and pages stuck together by the time the books got to her!
Maybe instead of another item to add to the never ending “To Do” List of parenting, how about the AAP recommend parents read something THEY enjoy and model literacy to their children? Perhaps with a glass of wine and a grain of salt.
Again, I don’t know why you are viewing the pediatrician as an authority on reading. S/he isn’t. Or even on child intellectual development or school readiness.
Neither of my pediatricians said anything whatsoever about reading. We talk about shots and nutrition and other MEDICAL issues. THAT is what I discuss with my pediatrician, not reading. I remember, when my daughter was a babe, talking about various basic developmental milestones, but nothing involving how to prepare her for school. That is not their job.
“interaction and talking with your kids is also good. But it doesnâ€™t prepare them for reading and writing”
Yes it does, at least for infants and toddlers. Talking with your infants and toddlers is ALL that is needed to prepare them for reading and writing in most households. At some point books need to be introduced to show how a book works and what letters look like on the page, but that doesn’t need to be in infancy. Infants can’t tell whether you are reading or just speaking to them.
@Dirk, talking to your infants doesn’t prepare them for reading and writing? Really? Because even a cursory understanding of early childhood literacy makes it clear that that is EXACTLY how you start to prepare a child that age for reading and writing. Your two month old baby does NOT know the difference between you talking and you reading.
I’m honestly not sure what you are going on about. The actual report appears to confirm what I and others have been saying: there is no evidence that reading has any actual impact on infants, and the benefits we do see of reading to preschool-aged children are mostly confined to kids from language-deficient homes. The idea that somehow reading aloud from books (or cereal boxes) to infants confers unique benefits has no scientific backing.
Which begs the question of why the AAP is recommending that ALL children to read to FROM BIRTH. To me, it sounds like the kind of can’t-trust-parents nonsense we see in a lot of things. Let’s tell pregnant women they can’t drink AT ALL because if we admit that there is no impact on a pregnancy to the occasional single drink, well, those dumb women will go out and get plastered every night. Let’s tell all parents they must read to their kids daily from birth, or else those stupid lazy jerks will never read anything to their kids.
The problem, of course, is that people inclined to get drunk every night while pregnant or to never, ever read to their kids (or even talk with them) are not interested in AAP recommendations, and are going to get drunk or not talk to their kids no matter what their pediatrician says. (On a side note, for many of these families, simply taking their kids regularly to a ped would be a step in the right direction.) Instead, these overly-intensive and broad recommendations cause conscientious, responsible parents to worry that, because they had a beer one time while pregnant or started reading to their kid at 16 months rather than 2 days, they have caused their child irreparable harm, as well as promoting the idea that all children are somehow at risk–even if they come from loving, responsible, nurturing, language-rich, educationally-supportive homes–if their parents “drop the ball” on even one thing.
Yes, genuine neglect and abuse in the early years can have significant long-term impacts. But, for kids raised in good, loving homes, the specific choices their parents make in their first few years are not nearly as important as we like to imagine.
I know some people who couldn’t care less about recommendations and some people who get stressed about every bit “expert” advice and think that they must follow everything to be a “prefect” parents. Required reading may not have stressed you out, but my guess is that you actually enjoyed reading to your children. If I was remotely insecure and cared what “experts” say, it would have stressed me greatly as I hate reading out loud so reading to my child was a chore.
I’ve got a graduate degree in creative writing, have taught college level literature, and am in general a voracious reader of mostly very difficult books. I started reading to my kids as soon as they took interest in books as something to look at rather than stick in their mouths, which was, IIRC, a bit before age two. But when they were infants? I was exhausted and in pain. I sat with them in my arms and watched a lot of TV. Sometimes I read my own books or stuff on the internet. It didn’t matter much to them, they were mostly asleep, anyway.
Now they’re both young homeschoolers and serious about reading and books, despite my lack of reading to them before it made any logical sense. You know what I think made the difference? They see me reading regularly. They see my husband reading regularly. And they live in a house that is spilling over with books. Seriously, we need a new house for all these books.
I personally don’t think it’s going to make a significant difference for a child in a non-reading family to be read a vapid Dora or Elmo book every day. I am of the opinion that a parent’s modeling of reading is a far more important influence. Freakonomics actually did a study that suggests this:
Claims that reading to a newborn makes them love reading miss one important point. Kids are different and react differently to the same input.
Now I am a reader, believe it’s great for kids, but Lenore’s point, and mine, is that it’s not NECESSARY to read to an INFANT.
As a reader, who started reading fluently at 4, I wanted to read to my babies, so when my daughter was born, that was what I did. When she was too small to move all went well, but as soon as she could she was grabbing at the pages and trying to turn them and chew on them. I don’t have a problem with babies chewing books, especially the board and bath books I bought for her, but the point is, she was totally uninterested in the words. She just wanted to feel, taste, and explore the book.
Trying to read to her very quickly became a chore, since I’m slightly OCD in that I like to go from the beginning to the end and finish what I start, and she wanted to turn 6 pages forward, 8 back, and turn the pages too fast for me to read more than 2-3 words. So, instead of persevering and letting her feel my growing irritation, I stopped with the reading. I let her play with the books instead, and bought a few picture books without words. That way, if she was sitting on my lap while playing with a book I might have time to point at a picture and tell her what it was. If I was lucky. She still was never too interested in what I was saying.
Instead of reading to her I continued talking to her, narrating what I was doing, and even singing to her, even though I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. She didn’t care if I hit a wrong note, and neither did I.
When her brother was born just over a year later, I was definitely not in the habit of reading to my kids, so I probably read to him even less than I’d read to her. Now my kids are only 2 and 3, so it’s far too soon to see if they’ll excel at school, but it’s my son who’ll come to me with a book to read to him. Or, for that matter, ask for the crayons so he can draw. So my son likes reading even without having been read to more than occasionally. My daughter, on the other hand, is the one who wants to help me in the kitchen, and I’ve recently started baking bread again just so she can help me with that.
She’s always been a quiet kid, and even now talks less than her younger brother, so an argument could even be made that trying to read to her when it was a chore actually damaged her and made her slow in speaking and dislike reading. So should I have pinned her down and read to a squirming, squalling child more than I did? Given that her brother, to whom I read less, does enjoy reading with me, I doubt reading to a child is what makes a child like reading.
I also don’t think I damaged her by not reading to her. She has always been a quiet child and she clearly understands everything I say, as proven by perfectly following detailed instructions while baking. The simple difference between them is that she is a physical learner, who learns by touching, breaking, and doing, while her brother is a literary learner who learns by seeing, hearing, and drawing. Books, and reading to them, is great for him, but not noticeably helpful to my daughter, though I treasure the occasions she joins us.
Read to your infants if you want to, but if you don’t want to, or they don’t want you to, you are not harming them as long as you continue to do things together that you do both enjoy. And making reading for a set time every day from birth a recommendation like this will only serve to pile guilt on the mothers who, for whatever reason, don’t enjoy reading to their infants.
“Talking is the key.”
That was about my thoughts on it, based on the things I had read and on logic. My understanding of the language acquisition research at the time indicated that they needed to see the mouth forming words to help them both understand and learn to talk. So I was really focused on opportunities to talk while we were face to face (diaper changes, and baths especially). My understanding was also that knowledge was built by figuring out the unfamiliar word among otherwise familiar words and sentence structure. Thus, the kid needs to start with some basic vocabulary building. Which is why I did things like touch body parts and name them “arm, leg, hand, foot, head, shoulders, knees, and toes…” And name my parts as she held my hand or tried to stick a finger up my nose or pet an eyebrow. I’d often narrate things like, like bath time: “I’m washing your arm. Now I’m washing your chest. Now I’m washing your tummy. Now I’m washing your legs.”
Now I felt a little silly doing that… and I’ve had people tell me it is inane to talk to a kid who can’t talk. Of course I’ve also seen their jaws drop when my tiny tot started talking back :-). But a lot of people seem to think that infants start out with no capability to process language. That ranges from thinking it is futile to talk to kids for the first few months to those that think non-verbal children don’t comprehend words.
More recent reading specifically on literacy has indicated that a diverse knowledge of words is key to facilitating literacy. I have given my 3 year old some phonics books and we work them as her interest allows. I’ve noticed that when she runs into words she isn’t familiar with (or not deeply familiar with), she is more likely to shut down and and tell me she can’t with out even trying to pronounce it. That effect must be substantially magnified in children with limited vocabularies. So I dare say vocabulary building is the foundation of literacy. And of course reading builds vocabulary (virtuous cycle and all that).
For the marginally literate, who are the target of these recommendations perhaps it would be most practical and effective if parents were advised to simply narrate what they are doing to the infant, and talk about things the infant stares at or reaches for. This will build interaction that will naturally lead to conversation later on, and build a vocabulary foundational to literacy.
@Hawa: This. And also: I am leery whenever anybody says that such-and-such is The Way To Raise Children (or else they will “fall behind” or some other dire warning) when it requires stuff that only some people have had for only part of history. I love books, in fact I’m a voracious reader, but if they’re such an important part of a brain’s complete breakfast, how did (ballpark figure) about 80 percent of the human race since the Neolithic Age learn how to speak?
Babies love to be talked to. If a person pays attention, the baby him/herself will signal that he/she is done being talked to, typically by looking away. Reading to a baby for 15-20 minutes per day involves going through four board books in a row, when we all know that the infant attention span is considerably shorter–or finding four different times during a day to sit down with the baby and the book. Yeahhhh no.
My babies were wildly excited by board books. They wanted to crumple, fling, and/or gum them. The words, pfffft. But if I talked to them as we went about our day, sang little songs, etc., they soaked that up.
Stuff like this makes me think of the scene in “Three Men and a Baby” where Tom Selleck’s character was reading to the baby in a calm and cool voice about a professional boxing match.
One of the characters asks, “What are you reading her?”
“It doesn’t matter what I read her, she doesn’t understand the words anyway.”
I have to agree with many of the other commenters here. What is there here to get worked up about? As a young mother myself, I was overwhelmed by the amount of “advice” out there regarding how to raise my son. I finally let go of other people’s input and decided to follow instinct (which, as it turns out, is a pretty awesome compass…you know…after all those years of evolution!). I always, always read to my son, even as a baby. Now, every single childcare provider or doctor that interacts with him tells me that they can tell he was read to as a child. Every single one.
So why get so upset? If the AAP is advising parents to do something that we all agree with, then what’s the big deal? Think of this advice in the context of ATT’s baby app fiasco, and of the culture of pushing screens on babies that runs throughout our society. If the AAP covers their bases and advises parents to read from infancy, then maybe we’ll have more parents READING to their kids. That’s a-ok by me.
really warren? I said while they are in their high chair eating a snack you can read them a book. Or while you are stuck in traffic and they are strapped in the car seats. Or when mine were babies and they were sitting in bouncy seats which is all they do at that age anyway I read to them.
No where did I say strap them down for the only reason to read to them.
I doubt the specific act of reading to kids benefits them until they reach the age that they are somewhat aware that they are being read to. But I think even before that age they benefit from hearing their parent’s voice. What isn’t important is whether they are reading from a book, telling stories that aren’t from a book, singing songs, or whatever. Reading is a good thing to do if you like it or run out of things to say otherwise. But there’s no magic that comes from reading, until they have matured enough to look at the book and see that it relates to what you’re saying.
This reminds me of a nursery rhyme I recall from childhood:
I am the sister of him, and he is my brother.
He is too little for us to talk to each other.
Every day I show him my doll and my book,
But every day he still is too little to look.
The operative here is “have to.”
I was extremely vulnerable to the idea that in order to do things “right,” I had to do a lot of what was being told to me: feed this many TB of mashed squash or whatever, even if my kid barfed because it was too much. I was anxious, and had a real trigger around “right” and “wrong.”
So for me, the whole “read to your infant” thing could, helpfully, be said like this: “Love your baby in whatever ways come most easily to you. The more sounds and words, the better, but silence is good too.”
“As a young mother myself, I was overwhelmed by the amount of â€œadviceâ€ out there regarding how to raise my son.”
I that is the crux of the complaint. There is already too much “advice” out there. It is overwhelming. It makes parents feel insecure. Parents don’t need more must do’s. They need ore people telling them to do what feels natural and fewer people giving them lists of things that must be done in order to parent right.
>>@Emily, would you think it was a good idea, since some kids enjoy yoga and doing it doesnâ€™t hurt, for the AAP to issue a guidelines that all parents ensure their kids are getting in 30 minutes of yoga 3-4 times a week.<<
@Anonymous Mom–Eww, no, of course not. Good point.
Dolly, could you stop being so freaking judgemental? If someone doesn’t choose to read to their newborn infant, that does NOT mean that the TV is on 24/7. You have a really jaded view of all other parents, you know that? It’s disturbing.
I think the reason this becomes a free-range issue has to do with the slippery slope. If experts decide it is crucial for parents to read to their children from birth, at what point does it become neglect (and CPS is called) if parents choose to delay reading until age two? Maybe this is farfetched notion, but so are a lot of the things documented on this blog.
If you want to read, read. If you don’t, don’t :-). To infants, that is. I do think that four and five and up do benefit from being read to a bit.
I read Shakespeare to the oldest because I liked the stories, and it was boring enough to send him off to Dreamland, LOL! And I confess I harboured secret fantasies that he might be a great reader….Now in his late teens he’s an okay reader, but thinks in general that reading sucks, unless it’s reading NBA stats.
The baby seldom got read to, and was reading the slightly older sister’s early readers well before she started school – they used to fight about it, Baby in the car seat telling her sister (who struggled with reading/hearing/school in general) what the word said. And Baby would be right, because she just had a bent for reading. She is still the best reader of the three of them.
I think people who had big families definitely got a better look at the nature vs. nurture argument …. it was only after having number three for a while that I really grasped (not just intellectually but ‘inside’) that kids are hardwired for a lot/maybe most things.
@anonymous mom – yes to the genetic thing :-). I’m sure you’re right. People with academic talent often seem to get together to reproduce, as do those with musical or sporting talent. As long as we don’t right off those from outside ‘academic’ families as being incapable of being superior students (see Carl Gauss, I think it was) then there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that you are more likely to find high proportions of excellent readers in, say, college towns, just as you are likely to find high proportions of excellent sportspeople in areas with high concentrations of African-Americans.
And you are rather more likely to find populations of good singers in classrooms of Maori and Pasifika kids than you are in classrooms more filled with Pakeha/whites, as I found to my dismay when transferring from a mainly Pasifika school to a private school and consequently trying to sit through choir practice….! Genetics does play a part in life 🙂
‘write’, lol, speaking of language arts…
I think another reason this bugs some of us is that it is pediatricians telling us about non-medical stuff. There seems to be this tendency to treat doctors, particularly pediatricians, as the experts on everything. Granted they are intelligent and well-educated people, but they are doctors, not experts in everything.
I go to the doctor for physical concerns. I am no more interested in my doctor’s opinion on how I raise my kids outside of physical health matters, than I am in my car mechanic’s opinion on nutrition. I am every bit as capable as a pediatrician in reading up on non-medical matters concerning my kids. I dislike the idea of medicalizing every aspect of life under the rubric of what’s “healthy” in some more metaphorical sense.
I never read to my kids as infants; it never occurred to me to do so. As a-mom pointed out before, until a fairly recent point in history, *no one ever* did this, and even 20-some years ago when my oldest kids were babies, it wasn’t common enough for most people to talk about, let alone be a universal recommendation made by the people whose job it was to keep their bodies in order. I won’t bore you with bragging about my kids, but I’ll just sum it up by saying their literacy was absolutely NOT compromised by my “failure” to do what almost no one else in that era — the parents of the current crop of grad students throughout the world — was doing. And as others have pointed out, what my husband and I *did* do was engage them verbally, constantly, talk to one another in an intelligent way in front of them, sing to them, etc.
I wasn’t going to wade into this storm, but I think a lot of people are really, REALLY missing the point. Yes, literacy is important. Of course it’s good for children (CHILDREN. Not necessarily infants) to be exposed to spoken and written word. Yes, books are wonderful. All Lenore (and her guest essayist) is trying to convey is this: We do not need another gray-area scientific standard imposed on our parenting. We do not need the pressure (from our pediatricians, no less) to spend x number of minutes reading to our tiny babies, lest they be somehow stunted by our negligence. And what’s with the couple of commenters who seem to think that we have two alternatives: reading or running an electronic device 24/7? There are dozens– hundreds– of ways to interact with our infants without reading aloud. If you want to, do it. If you would rather sing, or kiss their toes, or– heaven forbid!– watch a movie while they sit in their swing, or just catch some extra sleep… NO SHAME. This is a free range issue because it is about trusting our gut as parents, going with methods that have worked for centuries, and loving our children the ways we do best.
I think there is some evidence that the more words a kid hears before the age of three (or something), the better their language skills will be. It was/is a socioeconomic issue, as kids from lower socioeconomic backgrounds tend to hear fewer words, leading to lower educational outcomes. Reading to your baby/toddler could be one way of increasing the number of words they’re exposed to.
Ah, here’s the study: http://centerforeducation.rice.edu/slc/LS/30MillionWordGap.html
It does seem fairly significant. But if I recall correctly, in the article that followed this, it wasn’t so much reading to the kid as just talking to or in front of them.
There was a discussion on another site about the overreaching that pediatricians are doing regarding things that are not related to the physical health of the child in front of them. Many parents are just switching to general practitioners so they don’t have to deal with that crap.
telling them stories is a good way to calm them, and they end up learning some early language skills along the way, maybe.
And as most people don’t have the imagination to invent their own stories (certainly not stories you’d want to tell a young child), reading to them from a children’s book makes perfect sense.
AAP recommendations are primarily aimed at low-education families. Most readers of this blog are likely not in that category, so the advice does not necessarily apply. Starting this early probably has more to do with improving the parents’ reading skills than anything else.
We never used to vaccinate against polio either and we got along fine……….oh wait……
Pediatricians are supposed to look into more than physical health. I actually switched pediatricians because mine failed to notice or care at all about my son not speaking till 3 and a half years old. I told him about it and he just brushed it off. So I had to get him tested and treatment on my own. If I was a inexperienced ignorant mother who thought that was normal then my son would have never gotten any services.
They are supposed to screen for things like autism, developmental delays, vision and hearing problems. Those are not always physical things but pediatricians are still supposed to screen for them.
Buffy: The tv was referring to my friend whom I know very well and was at her house all the time and yes the tv stayed on 24/7 and she said it did. Then she said her daughter would not sit still to look at books. Crazy me to see a potential correlation.
I understand your skepticism, Lenore, but clearly the information wasn’t relayed to you very well. The reason the AAP, teachers, and librarians strongly encourage reading from birth is because it enriches a child’s vocabulary. Some of the best picture books have amazing vocabulary words that aren’t encountered in daily life. When our children are already familiar with these words, they are more prepared for school than those children who don’t have as broad vocabularies. These children are shown to do better in school through high school and are more likely to go to college because we are broadening their vocabularies from an early age and instilling a love of learning and reading. This recommendation is also founded on the research that links children who come from impoverished communities are more likely to have limited vocabularies, are behind grade level, and don’t complete high school, let alone go to college. There are socioeconomic factors, as well, granted. The AAP isn’t suggesting structured learning time. Rather, they suggest sitting down for a few minutes a day and interacting with our kids and sharing a love of words and literacy, thus developing a habit that we hope will continue for a very long time. And I won’t even go into the link between reading and summer learning loss.
I read to my daughter from birth because I love to read. I grew up with books in the house and we have more than we need in our house, still. She has consistently been one of the most advanced students in her grade because we love words. Now, she’s 12 and has her own business making and selling cookies at a local farmers’ market and she babysits. I encourage her to explore the area and to be independent, but to come to me when she needs my help. Reading to our children every day and forming a bond of love does not negate free range parenting. In some ways, I feel it encourages it because it can open up conversations about how book characters could handle situations and show children helpful ways to handle the world.
“Pediatricians are supposed to look into more than physical health. ”
Says who? Not me, and I’m the customer.
“I actually switched pediatricians because mine failed to notice or care at all about my son not speaking till 3 and a half years old. I told him about it and he just brushed it off.”
That’s physical health. How I choose to spend my time interacting with a healthy, appropriately developing kid, is not.
Autism is physical health — the brain is part of the body. Hearing and vision are obviously physical health.
How much I read to my kid is not physical health. Sure, the brain is involved, but “how I spend my time with my kid” is not my kid’s physical health in the same way “how the kid’s body, including his brain, is developing” is.
“We never used to vaccinate against polio either and we got along fineâ€¦â€¦â€¦.oh waitâ€¦â€¦”
You realize that’s an absurd comparison, right? If you define “getting along fine” as kids dying or being disabled by polio, your comparison is valid. Prove to me that kids who otherwise grew up in language-rich environments and had opportunities for education sometimes failed to learn to learn to read well *because they weren’t read to as babies*, the way otherwise healthy, well-cared for kids died of childhood diseases, and you’ll have a valid comparison.
What you’re saying is that even though a NOBODY EVER sat there with a book reading to a two-week old until VERY recently, and yet kids with normal advantages grew up literate, and some highly literate, it is now necessary read to our tiny babies, regardless of how much we talk to them or expose them to language in other ways.
That video brought tears to my eyes! Contrast the spontaneous, incredibly engaged but relaxed relationship that is going on between dad, baby, sister and mother (and how fast the baby learns) with an image of tired, guilty parents feeling worried, or worse, disappointed, that their baby does not want to sit still to listen to a story for the recommended period of time. Great to read stories if and when the time is right, but as soon as this becomes a medically or educationally recommended ‘parenting task’ it kills all joy. I can remember feeling obliged to get my school age sons to read to me every night (against their will) in order to complete the school homework diary – where previously they had loved having stories, reading became a punishment inflicted on all of us from without. We stopped. Michael Wilshaw, head of OFSTED (the UK schools inspectorate) has said recently that parents who do not hear their children read should be fined…
If a parent does anything other than the basic necessities such as feed and clean their child when they are tired and busy but very anxious that they are a “bad parent” if they don’t carry out the procedure such as read to their child, the outcome is likely to be a rather anxious child. I never read to my children when they were very little but I talked to them all the time and pointed out things to them as we did normal things like walk in the garden. We did things we all enjoyed. Have you ever tried to read to an infant? They have no idea what it is all about. We read a lot once they could follow and then we all enjoyed it. The key word is ENJOY. Rearing children should be fun a lot of the time, not a sacrifice.
My children haven’t turned out badly as some of my friends who read parenting manuals predicted, with their upper seconds from good universities and high flying careers. But most important is that they had reasonably calm childhoods and have become well adjusted adults who show concern for others, especially their old mother, who earned her living for around ten years working quite successfully with parents whose children were in serious trouble.
“The reason the AAP, teachers, and librarians strongly encourage reading from birth is because it enriches a childâ€™s vocabulary.”
Except that it doesn’t. An infant’s vocabulary is not enriched because somebody read them Shakespeare. At that age, they are still learning the most rudimentary parts of language–the speech sounds that are part of their native language, the inflections of conversation, etc.–and aren’t building vocabularies.
Yes, reading books with a rich vocabulary to a verbal child will help them build their own vocabulary. With a pre-verbal infant, no. You could read Ulysses to your infant, or you could read Go The F*ck To Sleep, and they WILL NOT know the difference. It will have zero impact on them.
I’m not sure why the difference between reading to a newborn who 1) can’t understand any of the words you are saying, 2) is not yet developmentally ready to begin building a vocabulary, and 3) has no idea if you are reading a book or talking and reading to an interested, verbal toddler or a preschooler who do have growing vocabularies and can begin to pick up pre-reading skills like how to turn pages in a book, how words are oriented on a page, and that groups of written letters correspond to words.
Nobody, including Lenore or the author of the OP, has suggested that reading to preschool-aged or older children is worthless or a bad idea. We’re talking specifically about reading to INFANTS. There is absolutely no research that can be pointed to that finds specific benefits to reading to infants over just talking to them. Parents do not need to read to their newborns. If they want to, fine, but there is absolutely no educational or developmental reason to do so.
And, honestly, most kids would probably be better off if we encouraged at-risk parents to talk to and narrate for their infants rather than reading a couple of books to them, because your average picture book has about 500 words (your average board book, aimed at babies, has far, far less, more like under 100), and so even if you read 10 board books a day to your infant, or 5 picture books, you’d still barely make a dent in the “word gap” of 20,000 or so words that more educated and affluent parents speak to their child per day versus the words spoken to a baby by impoverished parents.
@Nicole Except that what you wrote is not consistent with anything we know about babies. First of all, newborns do not care about pictures in the book. Most likely, they do not see them while parent is reading. You need few months older baby for that.
Second, babies do not have long term memory yet. That one is formed when they are around three years old. Facts memorized before are wiped out, unless you keep repeating them regularly. Of course, if you neglected them up to that point and they had little chance to listen to speach up and talk, they will have difficult time to caught up. However, specific rare words you showed them in a book does not matter that much.
Especially since you seem to be talking about those dictionary like books which does not contain neither sentences nor stories.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that what you do with babies have no influence on outcome whatsoever. I’m saying that your specific theory that *reading from birth* is necessary to develop proper vocabulary at the age of six does not hold water.
Summer learning loss is irrelevant when we talk about toddlers and babies, they do not go to school yet.
Last two things: First, you have to consult early development experts on reading to babies efficacy, not teachers, pediatricians and definitely not librarians. Although average teacher and average pediatrician knows more about them then average person, they did not specifically studied that. Average librarian knows about this topic as much as anyone else.
Second, if you advise people to read with specific frequency and length, then yes, you are basically suggesting structured learning time. Unstructured would not happen every day and would not happen for that specific length every day.
I also wanted to add, while we’re on the subject of myths about infant development, that the idea that children somehow learn language “better” if their parents talk to them “like adults” is actually not true.
“Motherese” or infant-direct speech–what we disparagingly refer to as “baby talk” and think rots baby’s brains like soda rots teeth–is actually a really positive things for infants. Higher-pitched voices, more musical intonations, and simplified vocabulary and syntax actually grab a baby’s attention and aid in their early language development. Cooing “Who’s the cute baby? You’re the cute baby!” at a baby in a silly high-pitched voice is NOT going to stunt your baby’s development: it is exactly the kind of interactions you SHOULD be having with an infant.
Because infants are not adults. Speaking to your newborn as if you are giving a TED talk is not going to make your newborn smarter; it’s actually going to engage them far less than “baby talk” would and mostly be background noise. (Just like reading the back of a cereal box or the NY Times editorial page will be background noise to an infant.)
That’s not to say that being exposed to adult conversation–hearing the intonations of how adults speak to one another–isn’t one helpful part of language development. It is. But the generations of parents who used “baby talk” with their babies were not wrong. In fact, they were actually speaking to babies in the way that we now know best grabs baby’s attention and supports their language development. Just like the generations of parents who didn’t read to newborns weren’t depriving their children of cognitive development but were interacting with their babies in age-appropriate ways.
If reading and other vocabulary development activities were so important to school success, both of my kids should be flunkies since they never saw or heard English (or did much else besides watch Spanish TV) until age 9mos and 12mos.
Well, the younger one was reading fluently at age 4. The older one (who has a list of learning issues and wouldn’t even look at a book before age 4) was reading at age 5. Both were honor roll students in a high-standards 2nd grade, though they were supposed to be in 1st grade based on age.
Clearly other factors are at play.
I remember my kids’ first pediatrician appointment at 12mos and 15mos. The doc asked if they said “mama” and “dada.” I said they didn’t say “dada” because they don’t have a father. The doc noted down that they were behind in saying “dada.”
Never mind the fact that they were both ahead in the number of words they would say (which the doc did not ask about).
This was one of several reasons I switched to a GP after that.
Hi anonymous mom,
Yep, I pretty much agree with your first two paragraphs in your
The you ask… “Which begs the question of why the AAP is recommending that ALL children to read to FROM BIRTH”?
The answer is simple, and you provided half of it when you said…”we do see of reading to preschool-aged children…” although you pointed out that a lot of the benefits are seen in relation to low income children who otherwise wouldn’t be read to, meaning the non low income children are being read to or getting the kind of interactions Donna was saying are also good. The other half of the answer was provided by the AAP in their statement…”programs that invest in children at the earliest ages have the highest rates of return.” Meaning it is most likely to have an impact of you get in the habit right away.
So that is it…AGAIN, let me sum up, your pediatrician thinks that reading to children is important to get ready for school (because, according to the AAP every year, more than 1 in 3 American children start kindergarten without the language skills they need to learn to read), and that is what the AAP statement says, they think the best way to start a reading habit is to start reading to kids “right away.” But at no time and no where in the AAP statement does it say anything about how you have to read to newborns or infants any prescribed amount of time. What it says is that part of being a pediatrician is reminding parents about a ton of stuff and that one of these things is reading is good.
Frankly, the title and reaction of and to all this says more about how angry people are in general than the actual statement. The title is misleading (nowhere does the AAP statement say you have to read 15-20 minutes to newborns or infants a day) in fact it talks almost exclusively (as you pointed out) about preschool age children getting ready to attend school. It was sensationalism because it doesn’t actually represent what is going on. And the comments are essentially knew jerk because no one has read the actual statement. It seems like even you AM have softened because as you stated “The actual report appears to confirm what I and others have been saying: there is no evidence that reading has any actual impact on infants, and the benefits we do see of reading to preschool-aged children are mostly confined to kids from language-deficient homes.” So there it is! When Lenore titles something “Do We Really Have to Read to Our INFANTS?” And implies that some vague group wants to force you to read to your child as part of a prescribed program that is the problem. The sensationalist title and misleading body of Lenore’s post is the problem. And clearly since you 100% agree with the AAP stance because as you said…the actual AAP report “appears to confirm what I and others have been saying: there is no evidence that reading has any actual impact on infants, and the benefits we do see of reading to preschool-aged children are mostly confined to kids from language-deficient homes.” The AAP has said nothing of what Lenore’s post claims. Her post is the problem here, not the AAP…
@Dirk: You still seem to be missing the point. There is often a disconnect between lit reviews or research studies and how those get translated into guidelines/recommendations. That’s appears to be what’s going on here.
Of course the actual report doesn’t say that reading to infants makes their brains better or somehow better prepares them for literacy than other types of verbal interaction–despite what you and others were saying over and over–because there is no research anywhere indicating that.
But, if the recommendation is that parents read to their children “from birth,” then the recommendation is not based on the actual research, but on either magical beliefs about the benefits of reading to newborns (so it should be recommended even without any research to back it) or on suspicions about the reliability of parents (who, if they are told to start reading to children at, say, age 2, would probably not do it at all).
It’s similar, again, to the disconnect between the actual research on drinking during pregnancy and the guidelines provided to women. The actual research indicates that drinking is dangerous to an embryo or fetus if done regularly or in excess. No research indicates that having one drink even once or twice a week is correlated with any harm at all. However, the guidelines are that women do not drink AT ALL when pregnant, either because the people issuing the guidelines have magical beliefs about the power of alcohol that are not backed by the research or because they have such a low opinion of women that they think that they’ll interpret the message that one drink on occasion is okay to mean that they can drink as much as they want as often as they want.
I do not like bad science or pseudoscience and I really don’t like professional organizations issuing recommendations based on either.
I also believe this statement is either a misstatement or a lie:
“According to a federal government survey of childrenâ€™s health, 60 percent of American children from families with incomes at least 400 percent of the federal poverty threshold â€” $95,400 for a family of four â€” are read to daily from birth to 5 years of age.”
There is no way that 60% of that population read to their newborns every day.
Maybe they asked people with kids between age 1 and 5 whether they read daily to their kids – and the ones whose kids are old enough to be cognizant of what a book says answered in the affirmative.
Yeah, that struck me as suspect, too. Either people are lying or have selective memories. I know a lot of smart, well-educated, book-loving people (many of my friends are from the English doctoral program I attended in my early 20s and others are my colleagues in the university English department where I teach), and most have trouble fitting in showers and laundry every day after a new baby is born. None are reading to their kids every single day from birth on. If they aren’t doing it, I’m finding it extremely hard to believe that scores of parents out there are.
Hi again AM!
In response to you other follow up post! (By anonymous mom Thu Jun 26th 2014 at 9:45 am)
1) You said “â€œThe reason the AAP, teachers, and librarians strongly encourage reading from birth is because it enriches a childâ€™s vocabulary.â€ Except that it doesnâ€™t. An infantâ€™s vocabulary is not enriched because somebody read them Shakespeare. At that age, they are still learning the most rudimentary parts of languageâ€“the speech sounds that are part of their native language, the inflections of conversation, etc.â€“and arenâ€™t building vocabularies.”
BUT the reason the AAP is suggesting pediatricians remind parents about reading as soon as reasonable and consistently is because as they say in their statementâ€¦â€programs that invest in children at the earliest ages have the highest rates of return.â€ They want you to form a habit of reading as one way of interacting with your child…
2) You hit the nail on the head, almost, when you said…”Nobody, including Lenore or the author of the OP, has suggested that reading to preschool-aged or older children is worthless or a bad idea. Weâ€™re talking specifically about reading to INFANTS.” But, once again, only Lenore is talking about infants in particular as if the AAP and your pediatrician is going to give you some sort of timetable and regimented program telling you to read to your newborn. Lenore pulled the idea of 15-20 minutes out of thing air! She did! At least in relation to the AAP statement because no where does it say any such thing. The reason I have been saying go ask your pediatrician is because these AAP recs are going to filter down to to them and they should be the one talking to you as a parent about them and not Lenore. Because she misrepresented them entirely to generate hits for her website. Which is a disappointing because I dig free range. But it is true. The AAP recs do not say what Lenore leads you to believe from her post. A true title for her post wouldn’t say “Do We Really Have to Read to Our INFANTS?” it would say something less sensationalist like “It is a good idea to read and interact with our children in various ways from the age 3 months to 5 so they are ready for school.” So when you said “”Nobody, including Lenore or the author of the OP, has suggested that reading to preschool-aged or older children is worthless or a bad idea. Weâ€™re talking specifically about reading to INFANTS,” you also need to say the AAP isn’t specifically targeting newborns for a 15-20 minute reading progam, or anything like that at all. Lenore went over board to get you to click the link. It was click bait.
3) Infants applies to young children between the ages of 1 month and 12 months. So… Hey, if your pediatrician has at least thrown an off hand comment that reading is good for your kid before they are one years old I don’t know. Not a crime but kinda not a very good doc either. MMV.
I also think this advice could be counterproductive. Say you tell a parent from a low-literacy background that he should read to his tiny infant, and give him a couple of books to do so. Parent goes home and shows the kid the book, and the kid refuses to look or listen. Parent decides the “read to your baby” thing is a crock and the kid doesn’t see another book until he’s in Head Start.
It would be more productive to wait and introduce the recommendation when the kids are tots and are likely interact positively with a book. Then the parents would see that this is a worthwhile thing to do with their kids.
Also, I really wonder if this isn’t going to hurt the eyesight of kids whose eyes are still changing, potentially causing educational issues that are costly to fix (if they can be fixed at all). Although not all early readers have vision problems, there is a risk for a significant number of them – this is a physical concern and it varies from kid to kid.
There is also a risk that some overenthusiastic parents will take it too far and not give the kid enough time to develop physical skills. The lack of physical skills (core strength, large muscles, and small muscles) also contributes significantly to school readiness.
Oh, because it also claimed that a third of the lowest-income parents read to their children every day from birth. No way.
Parents lie about what great parents they are, and IME the more a parent makes out that they are a great parent, the more they are lying. The biggest parent bragger I know–somebody who is constantly posting on FB about all the amazing stuff she does with her kids and sharing articles about parenting tips she thinks the rest of us need to read–is a family member who I know for a fact is a prescription drug addict. No judgement on that, we all have problems, but there is definitely a large element of “protesting too much” when people talk about how great their parenting is.
Which is to say, I’m guessing people who would report they read to their child every single day from birth actually read to their kids less than the parents who’d admit that they read to their kids when they can, maybe 4-5 times a week, but it doesn’t always happen. All self-reports prove is that people lie a lot. 😉
To respond to your statement “recommendation is that parents read to their children â€œfrom birth,” and then you talk about the research…but that isn’t why the “from birth” part is there. The from birth or infancy part, remember an infant is someone between 1 and 12 months, is in there because as the AAP says in their statement “programs that invest in children at the earliest ages have the highest rates of return.â€ Meaning get in the habit early. That is it. They imply no magic super baby, they imply a long haul starting before the child is one.
@Dirk: I was unclear about what you meant, but I think you were trying to say that if my pediatrician hasn’t told me to read to my child by the time they are 1, they aren’t a good ped? Seriously?
My children currently have a wonderful ped who has never once said anything to me about reading to my kids. Why would she? She is in the business of evaluating their health, not their education. If I wanted educational advice, I’d go to somebody qualified to give input into that. Pediatricians are not experts on every single aspect of child development.
For example, my third child talked later than his siblings, and we were a bit (overly) concerned. My husband works in a lab in a speech-pathology department. Rather than calling up the ped, who is not an expert in child speech development and would need to refer a child out to an SLP for a real evaluation, my husband talked to some of his colleagues who are SLPs (he isn’t one). They suggested that it sounded like maybe with two very talkative older siblings he didn’t have much opportunity or even need to talk, and to see what happened if we were more intentional about not letting the older ones talk for him. Well, they were right. Turns out he could indeed talk and had quite a good vocabulary, once we made sure his older siblings weren’t always answering for him! As people who work with families concerned about their children’s speech every day, they were able to assess the situation and make some preliminary recommendations far more easily than his ped could have.
Unless it points to a developmental problem, my children’s education or educational preparation is not something my ped is qualified to evaluate.
SKL and AM, believe what you want to believe, basically the AAP is saying reading to your kid as part of their life is good for them. They have not made any of the claims Lenore says in her post. You shouldn’t agree with the “insidious” claims she puts on the AAP statement because they are not what they AAP is saying. You agree with the AAP even if you don’t believe it…but you also agree with the BS Lenore put at the top of this page. What is sad is you think there is some vague outside force trying lie to you for some reason, or that a group of pediatricians is all high and mighty and that they piss you off.
@ anonymous mom
I am thrilled you love your ped. Print out the AAP statement and go ask her about it and come back here and tell us all what your ped said. Seriously. (Also for fun print out Lenore’s post about the AAP statement and see if your ped 1) thinks it represents that stance of the AAP, and 2)thinks about it in general). If your next post isn’t exactly that then you have no leg to stand on here.
Tell you what! I will do the same and we can compare! READY? SET? GOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
â€œprograms that invest in children at the earliest ages have the highest rates of return.â€
But it is not always true that earlier is better.
Earlier feeding of solid food is not better.
Earlier weight training is not better.
Even earlier sleeping through the night, beyond a point, is NOT better.
I’m sure we could all make a long list of things that are NOT always wise to start at birth.
It is generally agreed that TV before age 2 is NOT better, BUT what is TV to an infant but a bunch of meaningless sounds and images? Not much different from a book. The thing that makes reading to a baby “better” is the fact that the parent is interacting with the child. It is NOT the book or the pictures or hearing the words.
Maybe someone thinks that it’s a good idea to start the habit at birth, but that is just somebody’s opinion. I’m sure it worked for some people, too, but that does not mean it’s better for everyone. There are lots of good habits that are best started when the child is older. I mean, why don’t we also brush a bald baby’s scalp every day because it’s a great habit to develop for when they have hair? Why not brush their gums twice a day from birth to establish the habit for when they get teeth? I mean, let’s get real. That’s a stupid argument and it’s insulting to parents’ intelligence. And even if it wasn’t stupid, exhausted new parents have better things to worry about.
@Dirk: No, I don’t like people being misinformed.
You yourself said, earlier in this discussion, that reading to infants causes “good sciencey stuff” to happen in their brains. Apparently YOU believed that if the AAP was recommending reading to children from birth, it MUST be because there was research backing it.
And then when you saw that, in fact, there is no such research, you backtracked.
This is what I don’t like: magical claims about child development and especially child brain development being paraded around as fact and just easily accepted by people with no knowledge of the actual research. That doesn’t help anybody.
Dirk, the article that Lenore linked has the words “from birth” right in its title. Lenore didn’t make that up.
To me it is clear that they are talking about “from birth.”
Yeah, I do think reading to a kid between 1 and 12 months does good sciencey stuff and you do too. IF you think reading to an 11 month old has a null effect on them…I mean, do you really think reading to an 11 month old as zero effect?
The title “Do We Really Have to Read to Our INFANTS?” is click bait because it implies that you will be told to your 1 day old that you MUST read to them according to some fascist scheme. Clearly it worked because the nut jobs all came out posting.
@Dirk: I’m honestly not sure if you are just trolling at this point, or really not understanding the research.
No, I do not believe that reading to pre-verbal infants does “good sciencey stuff” to their brains. Exposure to language, particularly age-appropriate exposure to language, is essential for early language development, for very obvious reasons.
When reading can start providing some educational or intellectual benefits–and I’d put that much closer to 2 than to 1–it’s not for any magic brain reasons. It’s for very clear, well-understood reasons. Reading involves a set of skills. Some of those skills are what we consider pre-literacy skills: those are things like knowing how to hold a book, how to turn the pages, what direction sentences are written in, that a group of letters corresponds to a word. Around age 2 or 3, many children are ready to start developing those pre-literacy skills, and reading to them as well as just having them play with books is a great way to help them develop those skills.
But there’s no magic there. There’s no amazing neural connections. There’s simply skills that we know kids need, and practice in those skills when they are developmentally ready to attain them.
Reading is not magic. As mentioned above by another poster, a parent reading printed words off a page does not act as some kind of magical incantation that makes amazing things happen in the brain. To the extent that reading is beneficial, it’s for very well-understood reasons. And to the extent that it’s not beneficial–and there are NO benefits to reading to infants other than their having basic language exposure that they could just as easily get through the parent just talking or singing–it’s also for well-understood reasons. No “sciencey brain stuff” going on, just a process of learning that has been understood for quite some time.
So Dirk, please explain to me in what ways your kids are better than my kids because you read to them in infancy. Because obviously you are pretty convinced on this point.
And, no, unless the 11 month old is particularly precocious and shows some readiness for pre-literacy skills–which the vast majority of kids that age won’t–I don’t think reading has any cognitive benefits over simply talking.
At that age vocabulary acquisition would start to be an issue–kids that age will pick up new words, the way a newborn won’t–so books could be one way for a parent to introduce a rich vocabulary to a child, but many children’s books out there are not going to enrich the child’s vocabulary and a parent with a strong vocabulary could do so just as well by being intentional about introducing and defining new words.
Now, if the parent and child enjoy reading books together and it’s a way for them to bond, great. If the books, entertain the child, great. But, again, if we’re talking about educational/cognitive benefits unique to reading, I really don’t think we start seeing them until most children are closer to 2, the point at which they may be ready to develop pre-literacy skills.
OMG!!! The link Lenore posted is not from the AAP! The AAP is the American Academy of Pediatrics. The two people who wrote the study Lenore linked to are from two random English Universities. They have less than nothing to do with the AAP!!!
SKL you said “Dirk, the article that Lenore linked has the words â€œfrom birthâ€ right in its title.”
THE ARTICLE LENORE LINKED TO HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE AAP!!! In fact let us read the actual first sentence of the AAP statement so we can compare!
“Reading regularly with young children
stimulates optimal patterns of
brain development and strengthens
parent-child relationships at a critical
time in child development, which, in turn,
builds language, literacy, and
social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.”
The AAP statement talks about promoting reading so kids are better prepared for school. Lenore bait and switched you! She led you to believe the AAP was doing something and then gave a journal article from two researchers from Europe!
By anonymous mom re Thu Jun 26th 2014 at 11:09 am
Ok. When? When does it start to have a positive effect? Remember, the AAP wants people to start early to form the habit, but when does it start to have an effect?
Dirk, if you do a search you will find more than one article out there with a title suggesting “from birth” or “from infancy” and supporting the AAP’s position. I don’t hang out on mommy dish websites anymore, but I’m sure it’s been put up there and everyone is now talking about how if you really love your child, you’ll read to them every day from birth, because how could you not, when you know it can make or break him for life? And there will be repeated use of my most un-favorite phrase, “when we know better, we do better.” If it hasn’t happened already it will soon.
And within a week or two, there will be marketing campaigns for infant literacy promotion products created for infants who can’t even hold their heads up.
And by this time next year, everyone who doesn’t read to their newborn will be hanging her head in shame.
Because that’s how it works. I’ve seen it enough times. That’s what Lenore is talking about, I think.
2 you say. Cool. You should join the AAP.
“2 you say. Cool. You should join the AAP.”
Do you realize there are people who study child development who are NOT pediatricians? That there is a whole field called “early childhood literacy” and that there are many, many researchers in that field, who are not pediatricians? Instead, their background is often in either education or in psychology.
If you want to know about children’s literacy development, those are the folks you should be listening to. Pediatricians are not doing research on children’s literacy development, are generally not particularly well-acquainted with the field of childhood education at all, and are not particularly well-qualified to interpret the research being done.
Do you think your pediatrician would be able to tell you how best to get your child to be really good at math? Do you go to your ped for advice when your kid is prepping for the SATs?
It seems more to me that Lenore was scaremongering. But you said you “think” she was doing something…but what she did was smear a group of pediatricians then not link their actual statements.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that
pediatric providers promote early literacy development for children beginning in infancy and continuing at least until the age of kindergarten. They want to start PROMOTING early literacy development because they seem to think 1 out of 3 kids is far enough behind when the get to K to warrant some sort of action on their part as the primary health care provider to children. They seem to think it would be best to PROMOTE reading to your kids by the time they are 1 years age so that people form reading habits. That is it. That is all the AAP did and is doing. It made none of the claims from Lenore’s linked article and certainly doesn’t make any of the scaremongering claims she puts in the her closing paragraph. DONE, drops mic.
Dirk, pull your head out of your butt. There are multiple articles out there that were not written by Lenore that talk about “from birth” and they say they are telling you what the AAP statement is about. The AAP statement itself (which I did read) also mentions “from infancy” multiple times. Although it does not explicitly say you must read a book to your child the day he comes home from the hospital, it doesn’t specify what it expects doctors to suggest parents of infants do, so the implication is that they are supposed to tell parents of infants to read to their kids. If the AAP was not talking about starting it in infancy, they would not have used that term.
Most people will never read the AAP statement for themselves, they will read the articles that summarize it, which are telling parents that the AAP says to read to their kids from birth.
Lenore is saying that this sort of thing is a problem because it increases pressure on parents for no good reason, and it distorts the balance of what actually is good for babies.
Dirk, it seems rather obvious that you think Lenore is a hack and this community is for idiots, so I’m wondering why you are here.
I also agree that literacy development is not what the AAP should be spending its time on anyway. One of the articles said it took the AAP 5 years to develop its statement.
What part of medical school prepares a doctor to give expert advice on literacy development?
Who is paying for this? I am sure this is part of the reason why the costs of healthcare are skyrocketing, even as the amount of time our doctors actually spend with our kids is ever decreasing.
The community is full of early childhood education resources. Why do we have them if it’s up to the doctors to get kids to read?
LEAD AUTHOR FOR THE AAP STATEMENT!
Pamela C. High, MD directs the Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics (DBP) at Rhode Island Hospital/The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and serves as program director for fellowship and residency training in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. In addition she serves as the medical director of the Brown Centerâ€™s Infant Cry, Behavior and Sleep Program at Women & Infants Hospital. Dr. Highâ€™s interests are medical education in developmental and behavioral pediatrics and interdisciplinary collaboration. She has organized pediatric grand rounds for the Department of Pediatrics at Rhode Island Hospital since 1995. She is the current president of the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics as well as chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption and Foster Care. Her clinical and research interests include infant behavioral issues such as colic, sleep problems and feeding problems, anticipatory guidance including literacy promotion in primary care, and the interrelationship of medical and psychological problems in childhood.
CO-AUTHOR FOR THE AAP STATEMENT!
Perri Klass, MD, is a pediatrician and writer, who has published extensively about her medical training and pediatric practice. She is well known for her writing about the issues of women in medicine, about relationships between doctors and patients, and about children and literacy. She is the author of both fiction and nonfiction: novels, stories, essays, and journalism. Dr. Klass is Professor of Journalism and Pediatrics at New York University, and Medical Director of Reach Out and Read, a national childhood literacy program that works through doctors and nurses to encourage parents to read aloud to young children, and to give them the books they need to do it. She is a member of the National Advisory Council of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and has been nominated by the President of the United States to the Advisory Board of the National Institute For Literacy.
Dr. Klass was born in Trinidad, where her father, Morton Klass, was doing anthropological field work. She grew up in New York City and Leonia, New Jersey. Her father was an anthropology professor at Barnard College, and her mother a novelist and professor of English at the City University of New York. Dr. Klass received her A.B. in Biology from Harvard University in 1979. Klass went on to earn her M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1986, and completed her residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital, Boston, and her fellowship in pediatric infectious diseases at Boston City Hospital.
During her years at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Klass began to chronicle her medical training. In 1984, as a third-year medical student, she wrote a series of columns, published in the New York Times in the series of â€œHers Columns,â€ describing, among other things, the uncertainty of drawing blood for the very first time, the peculiar locutions of hospital jargon, and the emotional subtext of crying in the hospital. She also wrote, in the New York Times Magazine, about the experience of having a baby while in medical school. She went on to write many articles and columns about her training, originally published in Discover Magazine, American Health, Massachusetts Medicine, and other magazines, and later collected in two books about medical training, A Not Entirely Benign Procedure: Four Years as a Medical Student, and Baby Doctor: A Pediatrician’s Training.
In addition to her accounts of medical training, her books include a memoir in two voices, Every Mother is a Daughter: the Neverending Quest for Success, Inner Peace, and a Really Clean Kitchen, coauthored with her mother, Sheila Solomon Klass, and Quirky Kids: Understanding and Helping Your Child Who Doesn’t Fit In, coauthored with Eileen Costello, MD. Perri Klassâ€™s novels include The Mystery of Breathing, Other Womenâ€™s Children (also made into a Lifetime TV movie), and Recombinations; she has also published two collections of short stories, I Am Having An Adventure, and Love and Modern Medicine. Her short stories have won five O. Henry Awards. Klassâ€™s most recent non-fiction book, Treatment Kind and Fair: Letters to a Young Doctor was published in 2007; her most recent novel The Mercy Rule, appeared in 2008. Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times Science Section, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Washington Post, Vogue, Gourmet, and many other magazines and newspapers. She writes a regular column in Knitters Magazine, and her knitting essays have been collected in the book Two Sweaters for My Father. She is the recipient of a 2000 James Beard Journalism Award, and the 2006 Womenâ€™s National Book Association Award.
Dr. Klass has combined her interest in medicine and literacy to help promote the importance of books to children, through her work with Reach Out and Read. She became involved with Reach Out and Read when it was a single program in a single hospital, and, through her leadership at the National Center, has helped it grow into a national program, now in more than 4,500 locations in all 50 states, distributing more than 6 million books every year to more than 3.8 million children. Dr. Klass has trained doctors and nurses around the countryâ€”and recently around the world, from Portugal to the Philippinesâ€”in strategies to incorporate books and literacy guidance into pediatric primary care. In 2006, Dr. Klass spoke at the White House Conference on Global Literacy, where Reach Out and Read was the only United States program presented. She has also spoken at the UNESCO Regional Literacy Conferences in Qatar and Mali in 2007, and has made presentations at hospitals and medical centers around the United States.
Dr. Klass has received numerous awards for her work as a pediatrician and educator. In 2007, she received the American Academy of Pediatrics Education Award, which recognized her for educational contributions that have had a broad and positive impact on the health and well being of children. The Academy particularly cited her work with Reach Out and Read.
COUNCIL ON EARLY CHILDHOOD,
Elaine Donoghue, MD, FAAP, Co-chairperson
Danette Glassy, MD, FAAP, Co-chairperson
Beth DelConte, MD, FAAP
Marian Earls, MD, FAAP
Dina Lieser, MD, FAAP
Terri McFadden, MD, FAAP
Alan Mendelsohn, MD, FAAP
Seth Scholer, MD, MPH, FAAP
Elaine E. Schulte, MD, MPH, FAAP
Jennifer Takagishi, MD, FAAP
Douglas Vanderbilt, MD, FAAP
P. Gail Williams, MD, FAAP
Lauren Gray â€“ National Association for the
Education of Young Children
Claire Lerner, LCSW â€“ Zero to Three
Barbara Hamilton â€“ Maternal and Child Health
Abbey Alkon, RN, PNP, PhD â€“ National Association
of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
Karina Geronilla â€“ Section on Medical Students,
Residents, and Fellows in Training
Charlotte O. Zia, MPH, CHES
Jeanne VanOrsdal, MEd
I think free range is awesome. I am shocked that Lenore is just making stuff up.
So many stories on this site start out as something like â€œParents let 12 year old go to the mall and are arrested.â€ But what the story leaves out is that the 12 year old brought a 5 year old with them to the mall and left them in the food court for 30 minutes while they tried on clothes. And that once the mall guard pieced it all together she didnâ€™t know what to doâ€¦ I mean, that 12 year old clearly wasnâ€™t ready for that responsibility and couldnâ€™t explain themselves well enoughâ€¦some can for sure, but almost all the stories on this site seem good from the title but then fall apart the more you read about themâ€¦
Not convincing, Dirk. All of them are fallible humans and none of them have a right to tell me what to do with respect to my kids’ education.
I’m sure people on the other side have a list of qualifications as well, as is true of any controversy, especially those involving science.
Oh by the way, so the lead doctor is in charge of developmental pediatrics somewhere. Those are the people who diagnose millions of normal kids with ADHD and put them on drugs. I have little respect for that segment of the medical profession.
Because you asked…
The AAPâ€™s activities and programs are funded through a wide array of sources including membership dues, revenues from continuing medical education activities and publications, and unrestricted grants from individuals, foundations, corporations and government agencies.
The two biggest sources are publication and membership related.
You can see their tax return here:
Are you saying that all 21 of the people listed there are quacks and that reading to your kid from the age of 11 months to 5 as part of school preparedness is bad?
When they are infants, it doesn’t matter what you read, because it’s the sound of your voice they like.
OR … maybe it does matter.
My SO read his engineering books out loud to his children when they were tiny to get them to sleep.
Two of the three have degrees in engineering now. It can’t be a conicidence!
The co author has been nominated by the President of the United States to the Advisory Board of the National Institute For Literacy.
I read non fiction myself. I remember reading a bio of Washington to my first, I was reading to myself really, but he liked hearing my voice…
No, MOST people will not read articles about the AAP recs. They will go to a pediatrician who will mention that reading is good for kids to them sometime before the kid turns 1. That is the end result.
Dirk, re funding, yeah, that’s what I thought. Physicians paying dues etc., and where do you think they get the money for that? From the fees they charge for spending a couple minutes with our kids.
Dirk, now who’s spinning? Where do they mention 11mos?
You think there has never been a group of 21 people who all agreed on anything that wasn’t God’s own truth? If so, perhaps you need to brush up on your history.
And by the way, the President of the United States is also just a fallible human. I am also not a fan of his policies respecting newborns. Nor his policies respecting education.
75,305,032. total funding
6,046,180. national meetings
6,705,398 medical training
12,331,653 government contributions
12,971,118 private contributions
15,618,952 other publications
23,779,298 medical publications
An infant is a person who is between 1 and 12 months of age.
Definition of INFANT
a : a child in the first year of life : baby
b : a child several years of age
: a person who is not of full age : minor
You should reread this entire comment section…
I’ll post what my pedi says…
Dirk, have fun because I’m not going to respond to you any more. You are entitled to your opinion and I’m entitled to mine. Goodbye.
Dirk, Dude you are way too invested in whether a few people here believe that pediatricians should be making this, or any, recommendations about reading. Are you getting a cut from this study or something?
“My SO read his engineering books out loud to his children when they were tiny to get them to sleep.
Two of the three have degrees in engineering now. It canâ€™t be a conicidence!”
I’m not sure if this is facetious or not, but it seems far more likely that the fact that dad was an engineer led 2 of the 3 kids to be engineers, not that dad read to them from engineering books as babies.
My grandfather was a teacher. Two of his three kids are teachers. My mother was one of the teachers, and I (one-half of her kids) am a teacher. Her sister also became a teacher, and two of her sister’s three kids are teachers.
None of these parents read to their kids from teaching books as babies, or at all. Children are of course going to be more likely to go into a field one of their parents work in.
What we should take from this is that parenting is not a one-size fits all formula that you must follow or your kids will turn out terrible. I do think reading is beneficial, as is talking to your children, although probably not in those first few months when you really should be proud of yourself for keeping them fed and clothed. Reading to my kids is something I have always enjoyed, since they were little babies, and a nice way for us all to spend time together without me being bored to tears. There’s nothing like a preteen coming over to hear what I’m reading. I’ve had to adjust to their individual interests at different ages. My oldest loved staring at pictures and listening to me from a very young age. My third had little interest in board books as a baby, but as a toddler she could sit for hours and listen to picture books. I have no idea of course whether my kids all love reading because I read to them or because they are genetically predisposed to love reading like I do.
I do think kids who start school with no exposure to books are at a disadvantage. My kids weren’t the ones reading chapter books at age four, but when they started kindergarten they knew their letters, understood the general concept of “words,” and had a love for books. It made kindergarten much easier and more fun for them. Having volunteered in my kids’ classes occasionally over the years, I find it questionable that you can’t tell at third grade which children were “school ready.”
I have a serious two-part question for serious FRK folks.
What is it about TV that makes it a big No-No for kids under 2,
What is it about books and music that is so different from TV that they are considered beneficial before age 2?
It seems to me that the TV is a great way for kids to hear millions of words, see all kinds of interesting images, and even get exposed to music. Reading a book to an infant who doesn’t understand it does not seem all that different to me. I’m being serious.
I don’t think Lenore’s skepticism is about reading to CHILDREN as much as it is about reading to INFANTS. When my grand nephews were ages 3-5, I would read them bedtime stories during my visits as a way to tuck them in. It would give some much needed relief to my niece and her husband who read to them every night and it was a way for me to bond with them. They are now grown up and very well-educated but I’m not so sure if reading to them before bedtime as little children had any role in them being so smart now as adults. But they certainly enjoyed the bedtime stories at ages 3-5 whereas I am not so sure an INFANT would appreciate a children’s story being read to them. I would think an infant would be too immature and undeveloped to process a story being read or told to them although hearing their mother’s soothing words would provide some comfort to them at bedtime.
@SKL, I think it’s mostly hysteria, not research.
I also think it’s nonsense. I learned something very early on as a parent: anybody who tells you their kid never watches TV is lying. Period. They are lying to you.
I live in neighborhood where many of my friends with kids are either crunchy urban-farming types or conservative missionary types. Many of them will claim their children do not watch TV. They are lying. I have been to their homes. I have seen their children watching TV. But, they don’t count DVDs as TV. Or they don’t count streaming a video to the computer as TV. Sorry, folks: still TV.
I have never met a single person who told me their kids NEVER watch TV who I didn’t discover, pretty much the first time I entered their home, was lying.
The closest I know to a no-TV family are friends that don’t own a TV and really do consume very little media. Even they started allowing their daughter to watch some shows on the computer when she was around 18 months or so and the mom was pregnant with #2 and needed a break sometimes.
So, yeah, if somebody tells you their kids NEVER watch TV, they are lying to you. It’s probably the most common parenting lie I’m aware of.
The tv thing is to try and prevent spending copious amounts of time watching tv instead of being free range.
Frankly I think a lot of TV is as or more demanding on the viewer than many books.
@Dirk: Yet again, though, do you not see the difference between advising parents not to have children spend copious amounts of time watching TV and having a guideline that kids should have NO screen time AT ALL before age 2?
It’s the “can’t trust parents” thing once again, which only hurts conscientious parents. They wouldn’t dare say, “Screen time in moderation is okay,” because of course all of us stupid, lazy parents looking for any excuse to ignore our kids would just plop them in front of Spongebob the entire day.
So instead they issue a recommendation that causes good, responsible parents to feel like they suck because they let their toddler watch Sesame Street in the morning and then throw in a Leap Frog DVD while they are preparing dinner. (And that parents who do plop their kids in front of cable all day are just going to ignore anyway.)
Oh, and SKL, I think the screen time “studies” are another example of recommendations for at-risk parents being generalized to everybody.
There ARE correlations between the amount of time a child spends watching TV and certain behavioral and academic issues. However, we have no idea if the screen time is causative. There are certainly many other factors that would influence WHY a child was spending so much time in front of the TV that might explain the poorer outcomes than the screen time itself, if that makes sense.
Reading to your kids is good. We read to both our boys. Younger parents have this notion that if they follow all of these “guidelines” that somehow it will magically create the desired outcome. In reading a lot of these comments, I’m finding that a common theme is “I read to my child from the day we brought her home and now at age 5 she loves to read.”
Uh, we did too, and now that they are teenagers, one of my sons still loves to read for pleasure. The other one? Not so much. Around the time puberty hit he stopped reading for pleasure. He does well in school, and is a good kid, but he doesn’t read a lot outside of school assignments. He does absorb documentaries like a sponge, and can tinker with engines with the best of them. And no, he doesn’t have a tv or computer in his room. Even when he was reading for pleasure, it was mostly biographies.
My point is, don’t assume that your child is a great reader because you read to them at birth. I don’t think it is that simple.
Today’s children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices.
Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.
My kid’s pediatrician did say that tv in moderation is ok. She must trust us! If memory serves in at least one of the packets they gave us it basically said try to keep it to 2 hours or less and that interacting with people and the world was better, and then she said something like but parents live in the real world too so of course kids are going to watch tv.
The whole parents aren’t to be trusted thing is silly and sounds close to conspiracy nut territory. You are paying a doctor for their opinion not joining a cult.
Oh, but I also remember the pedi saying something along the lines that every hour they spend in front of the tube is an hour they missed out on actually playing.
Can’t say I disagree with any of the advice she gave us!
I realized I forgot to say where the text for the By Dirk Thu Jun 26th 2014 at 2:02 pm post was from…the AAP website!
Let me put it here too…
Todayâ€™s children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices.
Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A childâ€™s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.
They don’t sound so harsh to me…my pedi basically sad moderation among many activities is fine…
@Dirk: Again? OMG, I’m not talking about what individual peds say. My pediatrician has never said anything to me about either screen time OR reading. Either she recognizes that those are areas outside of her professional function or I seem like a parent capable of making those calls on my own. I would wonder, if I were you, why my pediatrician was making so many parenting recommendations. Either s/he is extremely intrusive or you may be coming across as a parent in need of a lot of guidance.
The issue is with the blanket recommendation itself, as presented to (via books and media) and understand by parents: Any screen time before age 2 is bad. Why would so many parents be lying about their kids not watching TV if they didn’t feel like they were somehow bad parents if they admitted their kids did watch TV? Because we keep allowing new parenting edicts based on either bad science or poorly-interpreted science to be issued to us, and it creates more and more stress for parents, who have an ever-growing list of things they must or must not do if they want to be a good parent.
I’m late to this discussion because I’ve been vacationing at the lake, reading books (albeit on an electronic device), and eschewing most other media for the past few days. But I can’t resist jumping in to set the haters who claim this isn’t a free range issue straight. The pressure to conform to some parenting script is something Lenore has reliably tried to combat. This post seems entirely consistent with her philosophy.
Also, I haven’t read all 250+ posts, but I’ve skimmed and didn’t see any other mention of the fact that the AAP is making this recommendation in partnership with Scholastic, which of course has an interest in selling more children’s books.
And Anonymous Mom, I have long said the same thing – parents who claim their kids never watch tv are invariably lying, often to themselves.
As for SKLs second question about how good TV is for learning words, vocab, and exposure to information. I seem to remember reading once that for a child (don’t know what age) to learn a word from TV they had to hear it more often than if some said it to them as part of an interaction, something about joint referencing or something? Anyway here is a better answer to the question…
According to the Linguistic Society of America…
Although parents or other caretakers don’t teach their children to speak, they do perform an important role by talking to their children. Children who are never spoken to will not acquire language. And the language must be used for interaction with the child; for example, a child who regularly hears language on the TV or radio but nowhere else will not learn to talk.
Children acquire language through interaction – not only with their parents and other adults, but also with other children. All normal children who grow up in normal households, surrounded by conversation, will acquire the language that is being used around them. And it is just as easy for a child to acquire two or more languages at the same time, as long as they are regularly interacting with speakers of those languages.
The special way in which many adults speak to small children also helps them to acquire language. Studies show that the ‘baby talk’ that adults naturally use with infants and toddlers tends to always be just a bit ahead of the level of the child’s own language development, as though pulling the child along. This ‘baby talk’ has simpler vocabulary and sentence structure than adult language, exaggerated intonation and sounds, and lots of repetition and questions. All of these features help the child to sort out the meanings, sounds, and sentence patterns of his or her language.
It also seems like you are not coming to this from the perspective of a new parent who wants to do what is best for your child. Personally, remembering what that was like, I can’t imagine interpreting
“Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2”
“Television and screens are okay in moderation for children under age 2.”
Because, “should be avoided” does not mean “okay in moderation.” Like, that’s a complete misinterpretation of their words. If I tell my kids “Avoid playing in the poison ivy” I don’t mean “It’s okay to play in the poison ivy in moderation.” I mean, “Avoid it.”
So, it is not at all unreasonable to me that a parent who is insecure and wants to do what is best for their child would interpret that AT FACE VALUE and conclude that any screen time for kids under 2 was harmful or at least potentially harmful. If your pediatrician said that screen time in moderation is okay for under 2s, than your ped is disagreeing with the AAP’s recommendations. Which is certainly possible, since pediatricians are a diverse lot and are not required to adhere to the statements the AAP puts out. But please understand that your ped, if s/he indeed said that screen time in moderation was okay, was going against AAP recommendations, which is NO screen time for under 2s.
The ACOG guidelines state that women over 35 should be given a GTT at 16-18 weeks pregnant. I’m over 35, but due to my history and how my pregnancy was going, my OB has basically been treating my pregnancy as if I’m NOT “advanced maternal age” and we didn’t do the GTT until 26 weeks, because she didn’t feel it was necessary. She was going against ACOG guidelines, which she is allowed to do. That she gave me the GTT at 26 weeks doesn’t mean that the ACOG doesn’t *really* recommend doing the test early for older moms; it just means that individual OBs are not required to treat patients in accordance with those guidelines.
Does that make sense? The AAP does NOT make up a set of rules for things that all pediatricians must believe and therefore anything your ped says is a correct interpretation of AAP guidelines. The fact that your ped said screen time in moderation is okay for under 2s–something I’m pretty sure my ped would agree with, if we ever talked about such things, because she’s pretty laid-back–doesn’t mean that the AAP’s recommendation to “avoid television” REALLY means “television in moderation is okay,” but that your ped appears to disagree with the AAP’s recommendation, as s/he is free to do.
Parenting script? A pediatricians advice is bad? It is ok for a doc to give you an opinion no? The suggest breast feeding, vacines, and reading as a good… Seems ok I would think. I never saw any pushback to anything (except the vacines, they were strong on those, but I mean…seriously…)
If a parent is that insecure that they feel pressured to strictly try to follow the recs of the pedi, then maybe they need those recs…badly.
@Dirk, and if anybody was suggested that television was a good substitute for any parental interaction, that would be relevant.
All your cut-and-paste did was 1) confirm what others have been saying about how kids acquire language (that it’s conversation, not reading, that matters, and that talking to your baby as if they are an adult–or reading to them from the Wall Street Journal–is actually not as conducive to language development as using infant-directed speech) and 2) demonstrate why if a parent decided to use TV or radio as a substitute for ever interacting with their child, that would be a bad idea.
However, SKL did not ask, “Hey, what’s the problem with never, ever talking to your child and instead using TV as a substitute for any verbal interaction?”
She asked, “What is so bad about screens that they are to be avoided by under 2s (which the AAP recommends) and why is learning via TV worse than learning via books?”
Those are valid questions that your link did not address. I’ll be the first to admit that my kids have learned quite a bit from educational shows aimed at preschoolers, and that my oldest continues to learn quite a bit from documentaries and nature/science shows.
To answer the post above, it’s because of the same argument you make against reading to infants. They learn better when you actually talk to them. So I would think the learning scale would be worst = tv, better = reading, best = interaction through talking (and singing?).
You asked…”â€œWhat is so bad about screens that they are to be avoided by under 2s (which the AAP recommends) and why is learning via TV worse than learning via books?â€”
And then said…
“Those are valid questions that your link did not address. Iâ€™ll be the first to admit that my kids have learned quite a bit from educational shows aimed at preschoolers, and that my oldest continues to learn quite a bit from documentaries and nature/science shows.”
Preschoolers are age what…2 at the earliest? Yup. I guess that is why the AAP recs talk about until the age of 2…
@Dirk: “To answer the post above, itâ€™s because of the same argument you make against reading to infants. They learn better when you actually talk to them. So I would think the learning scale would be worst = tv, better = reading, best = interaction through talking (and singing?).”
You are either a troll or not very smart.
I didn’t argue against reading to infants. I didn’t say “Reading to infants should be avoided.” It’s UNNECESSARY. As is watching TV. But, unnecessary does not mean harmful or to be avoided. Simple, yes? We do not need to do the things most conducive to learning all day and avoid anything else. That is EXACTLY the attitude that is so problematic for parents and children.
The idea that we much make every moment of our child’s first few years maximally “enriching” is the precise attitude that creates unnecessary stress and guilt on parents and that Lenore was talking about. Do I think parents need to read to infants? No. I think it’s entirely unnecessary. Do I think parents need to have their under-2s watch TV? No. It’s also entirely unnecessary. But if either activity is enjoyable for parent and child or makes life easier for them, do it. These are not things that need to be avoided, they just need to be put into proper perspective (reading to your infant isn’t going to do magic things for their brains, and TV isn’t substitute for parental interaction).
I don’t think cookies are a necessary part of a child’s diet (although my kids might disagree), and obviously a diet consisting of nothing but cookies would be very bad for a child. But, that doesn’t mean that I think parents should never give their children cookies, or that pediatricians should start issuing guidelines that parents should never give a child a cookie. Cookies can be healthfully enjoyed in moderation, and it’s up to the individual family to make that call. Unless there is a specific health reason why eating cookies would actually, directly harm a child, there’s no reason to advise all parents to simply avoid ever giving a child a cookie.
@SKL @anonymous mom If I recall right, flashing screen can cause epileptic seizure in some small kids. Not sure how much it is true.
Btw, my older kid really did not watched tv or videos videos until she was two years and half. We simply did not had kid videos at home and she was easy enough so they were not needed. She was able to play by her self for long time. Then she had long period of watching only dancing videos. Fairy tails followed only later on.
We used to hand phone to her occasionally, but she did not watched videos on it. She tapped it randomly and that was enough for her. She later looked at photos and even later played with paint and noise making apps.
It is different with younger one, she has opportunity to watch when the older one is watching. However, she does not seem to be interested unless there is an introduction song playing. Apparently, it is boring to her yet.
Lol. Confirmation bias.
This study examined the relationship between viewing an infant DVD and expressive and receptive language outcomes. Children between 12 and 15 months were randomly assigned to view Baby Wordsworth, a DVD highlighting words around the house marketed for children beginning at 12 months of age. Viewings took place in home settings over 6 weeks. After every 2 weeks and five exposures to the DVD, children were assessed on expressive and receptive communication measures. Results indicated there was no increased growth on either outcome for children who had viewed the DVD as compared to children in the control group, even after multiple exposures. After controlling for age, gender, cognitive developmental level, income, and parent education, the most significant predictor of vocabulary comprehension and production scores was the amount of time children were read to.
On the no TV for kids under age 2 recommendation-
I honestly felt guilt at the amount of shows my kids enjoyed watching, especially during long winter months when playing in the ice storm wasn’t especially appealing. A Dora the Explorer episode got me a full 24 minutes to shower and get shit done. No one should feel guilt to using the TV as an outlet activity. Bob the Builder, Dora, Diego, Wonder Pets! and even the whiny Cailiou(why did he have no hair? He was 4…) saved my sanity and didn’t mutate my normal children’s brains.
If they were making it mandatory and sending parents to prison for negligence because they don’t read with their baby every single day I could see your beef – but I’m gonna have to heartily disagree with you on condemning the mere suggestion that parents should read with their children, even infants. Starting reading early exposes children to “are words” that they are unlikely to hear in conversation (the other prime way they are absorbing language at that age). That foundation vocabulary continues to build over their early years and becomes critical when it is time to learn to read around the age of 5-7. It is not the only way to build relationships and bond with baby – but it is an excellent way – especially for dads who often play less of a role in feeding (esp. if mom is breast feeding) and even in diapering and other hygiene tasks where mom can bond with baby. It also models the importance of reading for both entertainment and education. There is literally NO HARM done in encouraging parents to read with their infants and many well-researched and measurable benefits to their intellectual and relational development. So really, why the beef?!
This article reviews the literature relating to the potential impact of exposure to screen media on the emotional development of infants. The available literature suggests that screen media, in particular television, has a substantially disruptive effect on the quantity and quality of parent-child interactions, which are essential for developing secure attachments.
The goal of this study was to determine whether verbal interactions between mothers and their 6-month-old infants during media exposure (â€˜media verbal interactionsâ€™) might have direct positive impacts, or mitigate any potential adverse impacts of media exposure, on language development at 14 months. For 253 low-income motherâ€“infant dyads participating in a longitudinal study, media exposure and media verbal interactions were assessed using 24-hour recall diaries. Additionally, general level of cognitive stimulation in the home [StimQ] was assessed at 6 months and language development [Preschool Language Scale-4] was assessed at 14 months. Results suggest that media verbal interactions play a role in the language development of infants from low-income, immigrant families. Evidence showed that media verbal interactions moderated adverse impacts of media exposure found on 14-month language development, with adverse associations found only in the absence the these interactions. Findings also suggest that media verbal interactions may have some direct positive impacts on language development, in that media verbal interactions during the co-viewing of media with educational content (but not other content) were predictive of 14-month language independently of overall level of cognitive stimulation in the home.
@Dirk Maybe I missed something, but nobody here claimed that DVD teach small kids. Your study shows that they do not educate, it does not show they did harm.
Plus, that DVDs content sounds ridiculous. You would be better off with random youtube video probably.
Prior research has identified negative effects of background television (TV) exposure on toddler toy play and parentâ€“child interactions and has documented a negative association between early TV exposure and language development. It is hypothesized that background, adult-directed TV reduces the quantity and quality of parent language addressed to their young children. To test this hypothesis, the current study compared parent language directed at 12-, 24-, and 36-month-old toddlers (N = 49) in the presence and absence of background TV. In the presence of background TV, the number of words and utterances spoken per minute by the parent decreased as did the number of new words per minute. However, mean length of utterances did not differ. Because parent input is an important factor for language acquisition, development may be negatively affected by background TV exposure.
This study examined if babies (6â€“24 months; n = 60) learn words from a DVD modeled on Baby Einsteinâ„¢. The study was novel in that it utilized an infant-directed DVD, but was edited to include low-frequency words (e.g., medallion) and it utilized the preferential looking method in the posttest so that very young babies could be tested. Results suggested that babies could learn the novel words in the live condition; however, they did not appear to learn them in the video condition. Furthermore, there was no age effect in the video condition. Finally, there was no relationship between visual attention to the video and learning from it. Thus, high attention did not necessarily result in learning.
In previous studies, very young children have learned words while â€œoverhearingâ€ a conversation, yet they have had trouble learning words from a person on video. In Study 1, 64 toddlers (mean age = 29.8 months) viewed an object-labeling demonstration in 1 of 4 conditions. In 2, the speaker (present or on video) directly addressed the child, and in 2, the speaker addressed another adult who was present or was with her on video. Study 2 involved 2 follow-up conditions with 32 toddlers (mean age = 30.4 months). Across the 2 studies, the results indicated that toddlers learned words best when participating in or observing a reciprocal social interaction with a speaker who was present or on video.
By Andy Thu Jun 26th 2014 at 3:36 pm
@Dirk Maybe I missed something, but nobody here claimed that DVD teach small kids. Your study shows that they do not educate, it does not show they did harm.
Of course it doesn’t kill or anything. Harm. It does rob them of the chance to interact though. Like Donna was lamenting all this is really aimed at the parents that don’t even interact with their kids except to yell at them.
So sure, babies and toddlers donâ€™t get anything out of watching TV, but if they seem to like it, whereâ€™s the harm? If a little TV is what it takes for you to get dinner on the table, isnâ€™t it better for them than, say, starving? Yes, watching TV is better than starving, but itâ€™s worse than not watching TV. Good evidence suggests that screen viewing before age 2 has lasting negative effects on childrenâ€™s language development, reading skills, and shortterm memory. It also contributes to problems with sleep and attention. If â€œyou are what you eat,â€ then the brain is what it experiences, and video entertainment is like mental junk food for babies and toddlers.
The problem lies not only with what toddlers are doing while theyâ€™re watching TV; itâ€™s what they arenâ€™t doing. Specifically, children are programmed to learn from interacting with other people. The dance of facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language between a toddler and parent is not only beautiful, itâ€™s so complex that researchers have to record these interactions on video and slow them down just to see everything thatâ€™s going on. Whenever one party in this dance, child or parent, is watching TV, the exchange comes to a halt. A toddler learns a lot more from banging pans on the floor while you cook dinner than he does from watching a screen for the same amount of time, because every now and then the 2 of you look at each other.
Just having the TV on in the background, even if â€œno one is watching it,â€ is enough to delay language development. Normally a parent speaks about 940 words per hour when a toddler is around. With the television on, that number falls by 770! Fewer words means less learning. Toddlers are also learning to pay attention for prolonged periods.
Toddlers who watch more TV are more likely to have problems paying attention at age 7. Video programming is constantly changing, constantly interesting, and almost never forces a child to deal with anything more tedious than an infomercial.
After age 2 things change, at least somewhat. During the preschool years some children do learn some skills from educational TV. Well-designed shows can teach kids literacy, math, science, problem-solving, and prosocial behavior. Children get more out of interactive programs like Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street when they answer the charactersâ€™ questions. Educational TV makes the biggest difference for children whose homes are the least intellectually stimulating.
@Dirk You seem to be arguing against a point nobody made. And you copy past so much irrelevant, offtopic and misleading information, that there is no point in trying to dig out few relevant gems from it.
Seriously, you should read what actually those studies say, think about whether they relate to what people here wrote and only then post.
Lastly, kids do not need to have every second of their life educational. Wasting some time is not robbing them of anything relevant.
Wow. Again, confirmation bias. You guys = fox news man…
If anyone has made it this far I highly suggest you read Lenore’s post.
Then read the AAP statement…
Then read Lenore’s post and judge for yourself.
Last thing I swear…
It takes 2 full years for a babyâ€™s brain to develop to the point where the symbols on a screen come to represent their equivalents in the real world.
If anyone has made it this far I highly suggest you read Lenoreâ€™s post.
Then read the AAP statementâ€¦
Then read Lenoreâ€™s post again and judge for yourself.
Dolly, nope. Here’s what you said: “But if you only have one baby it should not be hard to do. Better than having the tv on in the background 24/7. No one is saying do it all the time. Heck just one book a day would be good.” and then blah blah cadence blah tone of voice blah blah blah.
Not one word about a friend. But words making a blanket assumption that if one doesn’t read to one’s lone baby, they have the TV on 24/7. Surely there are blogs in existence that are all about judging people you don’t know. Find one of those. You would be the queen!!
Dirk–You are absolutely right on this one. I haven’t had much of a chance to jump in but you are doing a great job of making all the points. Keep fighting the good fight.
No one is trying to legislate anything. They are providing information which is conclusively demonstrated through numerous scientific studies. The point is to help parents by passing on information which parents may find helpful as they make parenting decisions. We are sitting around reading this and other blogs but lots of parents are not. Pediatricians can help pass on this data which parents can then use in making decisions.
I was SHOCKED when my pediatrician asked if I was reading to my infants. No. I started reading to them when they started bringing me books. And even then, typically it’s a page or two until they wander off. This assignment, to me, is just another thing on a long, long list of reasons I’m failing as a parent. And I refuse to get caught up in that when there’s no way on Earth I can do all the things on the list!
There is a strong correlation between high intelligence and alchohol abuse, depression and feelings of isolation. In some circles it may be considered abuse to read to a kid instead of parking them in front of the TV.
Encouraging intelligence is endangerment.
After reading the post and comments, it strikes me that if the AAP recommended kids getting to be free range, there would be complaints here.
“One more thing for tired parents to worry about!”
“Why make parents feel guilty for not making their every decision about what’s best for their kids’ development!”
“No one’s saying that free-ranging is BAD, just that you shouldn’t feel guilty for not doing it!”
“Things start as helpful suggestions, and the next thing you now someone’s calls CPS because you don’t let your kids range free.” (That’ll be the day!)
“These recommendations are fine, but the parents who need them most won’t hear (listen) to them, and they’ll just give the other parents one more thing to worry about!”
All of these arguments would work just as well against any given thing that any given body recommends doing with/for your kids, even the things you’re passionately in favor of! Is the thought process around here really that no one should ever suggest anything to any parent?
“All of these arguments would work just as well against any given thing that any given body recommends doing with/for your kids, even the things youâ€™re passionately in favor of! Is the thought process around here really that no one should ever suggest anything to any parent?”
Speaking for myself, it’s not that NOBODY should recommend anything. It’s that doctors should stick to medicine, largely because what your doctor recommends is, for most people, bound up with the idea of serious harm if you don’t do it, but also because medicine is the only thing they’re trained in. They are no more competent to evaluate the literature on language or literacy acquisition and make recommendations on it than any other person capable of reading it, and they receive absolutely no education on it in the course of their studies. They are in a perceived position of authority, and to speak from that position in matters outside their field of expertise is a minor abuse of that authority. Other people who “make suggestions” are not in that position.
When Lenore says “You should be Free-Range,” she is not someone with whom anyone is going to invest the authority or competence to instruct them on life and death matters. She argues her case, and any of us can take it or leave it. Rightly or wrongly, physicians are perceived as having this authority and/or competence, therefore they should be extra careful about not verging into territories outside their field.
There’s an awful lot of bragging in here about our kids and even ourselves. I do not care at what age your son read. Parenting is not a competition. And there is no proof that a genius child is something you earned by being a perfect parent. One of my twins talked early, one talked late (etc, etc, etc). If I sat and compared the two and tried to figure out where I went wrong, I’d be miserable. And, frankly, recreational reading as an adult doesn’t make you a smarter person. A lot of people don’t read and I don’t put a value judgement on that either way.
“There is a strong correlation between high intelligence and alchohol abuse, depression and feelings of isolation.”
Oh my goodness that’s me and my entire family. I blame “Pat the Bunny.”
Yes, like many others, I disagree on this one. I think the recommendation to read to your children from an early age is a very useful public health message. Not all parents are the sort ofparents who bother to read parenting blogs. I work in child protection, and for children of parents with limited resources and creativity, and possibly mental health problems, life can be very impoverished. Yes, there are other things these parents could do with their kids. But reading is easy to explain, easy to do and easy to quantify. It’s time spent often in physical contact, it calms down the chaos, it stimulates children’s imaginations even before they can read for themselves, it helps children understand the rhythms and tones of speech even when they can’t understand the content, which develops their musicality. Bring it on!
One of my cousins is a librarian who has just retired.
Now that she has done so, she has started admitting quite a few things to the family — one of which was that the Newborn to age One reading courses at the Public Library were nothing more than “make work projects” to keep library staff fully employed, and that she herself considered them an obscenity which, in her words ” guilted women into participating in them”
Though I believe talking to your kids is important, can anybody truly demonstrate that reading MacBeth to a 2 week old is beneficial.
Margot said “But reading is easy to explain, easy to do and easy to quantify.”
Easier than talking? Clearly, I don’t understand the huge benefit gained from reading to an infant as opposed to talking, cuddling, singing, and other forms of nurturing. I don’t find any of these, especially talking, hard to explain, hard to do, and hard to quantify.
pentamom: I absolutely assure you my mother in the 80s did read to me when I was under a year old. She would sit in the rocking chair with me and read to soothe me. That is where the whole reading the dictionary story to me came from. That was when she did it. I just liked being held and hearing her voice I am sure, but it also probably stimulated my brain.
Dolly, I never said your mother in the 80s didn’t do it. But there was certainly a large part of history in which no one did, or at least it was so rare as not even to register that people did — even the parents of the great minds of history. As I said, it was rare enough in the 90s that while I don’t doubt people were starting to do it, I never heard of anyone doing it nor did I read about it as a thing that people were doing, let alone something that must be done in order to ensure literacy among our kids. So somehow we coped without it for most of history right up to the present with it being at best highly uncommon, and unlike polio, no one died or was crippled or severely negatively affected if all the other things in their lives were good.
@SOA, if your mom read to you as an infant, of course it stimulated your brain, because she was providing stimuli. However, your infant brain was entirely unable to distinguish her reading from her just talking (which would have also stimulated your brain, because stimuli). Reading is not magic. It does not do special things to infant brains that regular speech doesn’t do and is likely less engaging and conducive to language development than “motherese,” especially if parents are reading materials designed for adults or older children.
See this is how pediatricians work. Like when at the 3 year old check up when the doctor asked if my son was talking and I said “Not at all” he should have ordered tests and started asking questions to get to the bottom of why that is. Hearing tests, autism screenings, but another easy thing to do is find out if the child is not being sung to, read to, interacted with, if they are parked in front of the tv all day long, if they are being left in the playpen by themselves all day long.
Because believe it or not, those things can cause developmental delays just as much as hearing problems or autism. Developmental delays can happen from more than just a medical or brain issue. The children adopted from those overseas orphanages are proof of that. They often are way behind intellectually and physically because they are just not interacted with. It can happen to children in this country too although much rarer.
I would find a doctor remiss to not look into that. Especially since a bunch of hearing tests and autism screenings cost money and take lots of time and effort when asking those few questions takes little effort.
When my son received early intervention services they asked me those questions. They have to ask them to make sure it is not because the parent is not doing their job and make sure it is because of some other issue. They even came in and worked with him as part of his services but it was stuff I do with him like read books, do puzzles, play games, etc. But the reason they do that is while I may have been doing those things with him, so many more of their clients do not do those things with their children and those children have delays so they come in and try to make up the gap.
I get why this is relavent to free range parenting…the constant barrage of “do this or your child will be irreparably damaged” is a vortex that easily sucks us in. But that’s not what I got from this recommendation. Maybe it’s because I realize that “reading” is different at every age and developmental stage. You don’t have to force a child who has just learned to crawl to sit in your lap as you read the exact words from the page. You can read to them as they do other activities. I actively skip and ignore words as I read to my very young children. Yes, I read aloud some, mostly as I was nursing, to my newborns. And I exposed my infants to books, but neither of them were interested in listening to a whole story until they were more than a year old. Both of them often closed a book as I tried to read it. So, I sang to them and told them stories. I have seen studies that show singing, music and oral storytelling are wonderful catalysts of early literacy. Check out Tell Me a Story: Sharing Stories to Enrich Your Child’s World by Elaine Reese. I loved it, though that could have been because it confirmed I was doing everything right…at least according to this author.
I got that this is a good thing to do, something I heard from every pediatrician since my older daughter’s 2 week check up. What is the harm in having the umbrella group for pediatricians formalizing what they all tell parents anyway? Feel guilty if you want, that’s all on you, though, not the AAP.
In comparing the TV to books, I guess I should have specified that if we’re going to talk about recommending 20 minutes of reading per day from infancy, then we should compare it to 20 minutes of TV per day from infancy. (Whatever specific start date during infancy you want to start at, I don’t care, but make it the same date for both reading books and watching TV.)
Also, to make it a fair comparison, let’s say the parent is right there holding and interacting with the infant/tot whether they are reading a story or watching the TV.
Also, who said the TV had to be playing one of those mindless “baby DVDs” that have been proven to be worthless? My kids’ first movie was The Wizard of Oz (a little under 2yo), followed by Marley and Me (just about age 2). Which, by the way, they understood. Thereafter I let them watch DVDs that had kids singing and acting out popular kiddy songs like London Bridge etc.
I remember my mom telling me that she didn’t let her eldest watch TV, and then she noticed that he was behind his peers in speech, and other parents recommended Sesame Street (which is 1 hour per day, not 7 hrs). She let him start watching Sesame Street at age 2 and his speech took off. I was skeptical, but my kids were also slow to speak conversationally, and they also took off after they started watching those song videos. Of course they didn’t watch them for 7 hours per day, it was more like 20 minutes, and I was right there with them doing the actions and singing the songs. But when it was only my voice, they wouldn’t talk or sing along. Also, they had tons of really good music to listen to when they were younger, on CDs, but that didn’t encourage speech either.
Going on and on about the stereotype of underprivileged kids having the TV on 24/7 is not meaningful to the majority of the population. Why doesn’t the AAP say that TV should be off limits to low-income kids? Or, that it should be limited to xx minutes per day? But on the other hand, do low-income people follow this guideline anyway? I’ve never known anyone in that demographic who attempted to limit TV, let alone forbid it.
I tried to read to her from the start but she was having none of it until, I forget when exactly, but somewhere between 6 to 9 months. Then she liked it.
I’m currently studying Speech Pathology and I can tell you exactly why reading is recommended (at least in the world of Communication Sciences)…because it fosters back and forth communication between parent and child. Generally, parents tend to ask questions, have children point to things, point to things themselves, etc. and it is this part of the interaction that is the most important, not the reading itself. There are many other activities that might include the same kind of interaction, but reading is a good, easy way to foster that type of communication. It builds multiple skills at the same time (vocabulary, joint attention, print awareness, etc.). The science is really solid on this one, so I don’t know why anyone would have an issue with a recommendation to read to your kid, even starting from infancy. You don’t have to do it, no ones MAKING you do it, but it is a really quick and easy way to build a number of language and social skills. I mean, your kid will still talk if you don’t read to them, but reading builds skills that go beyond simple verbal communication.
@Megan First, newborn will not point to anything and will not answer nor attempt answering questions. Second, reading to uninterested child is not easy nor fun nor bonding nor pleasurable. Third, discussing books is not reading it, reading is reading and implies passive child listening to parent voice.
If your advice is “communicate with the kid, ask him questions and let him answer”. I would be not be opposed. However, the book is entirely irrelevant item in the whole thing.
@ Andy Fri Jun 27th 2014 at 9:14 am
The AAP is talking about kids during their first year of life and up, not 1 day old newborns. See below…
I stopped by my pediatricians office on the way home and talked (not to our specific pediatrician but the nurse practitioner) and was told that their office was already in line with the AAP statement because they were loosely following the ideas of something called Reach out and Read which is part of what is informing the AAP’s conclusions. She confirmed that they mention reading to a child by their 2nd or 3rd month as a way to interact, and they mentions reading regularly at the 6 month. She said that any doctor that tells you to read to what is commonly called a newborn is kinda “not getting it right.” I asked about how their was a lot of discussion about reading from “birth” and she basically said that was a bit of a misnomer. That of course you can read to a newborn but you could just talk to them too and it would be the same. Although there is nothing wrong with reading to a newborn of course. She said that they mean you should start reading to them as babies, which she actually said meant before they were two in her opinion but that the AAP means someone less than about a year old, “essentially anyone who has learned to walk yet” was her exact phrase. She said though that most kids around 6 months are able to follow along with a book to a degree, that before then reading to a say 1 or 2 month old is just another way to interact with them, and that surprise surprise it is best to get in the habit of reading early. She said once the kids get to the age of 6 the stop mentioning it because the kids are in school by then and their teachers “take over” that aspect. That if they were behind prior they would recommend early intervention but that when the kids start school they get support of developmental delays through the schools such as speech therapy and physical therapy. Also, that being read to and reading on your own has cognitive benefits at all ages from the opinion of their office. I have to say I never felt “pressured” to read since we have been using them, but I do remember them talking about it. They probably said maybe 5 sentences about it once a year…
Everyone’s experiences differ of course, but probably not by all that much…
I really suggest you do ask what your pediatrician thinks because these guidelines are for pediatrician offices and were written by pediatricians. Instead of just writing it off because we don’t like to be told what to do or because we don’t like so called experts or because you think whatever, maybe you should find out from the horses mouth why they think something…
SORRY in the above post I meant to type that she said that a baby (infant) was â€œessentially anyone who has NOT learned to walk yetâ€!!!!
@ By pentamom Thu Jun 26th 2014 at 5:08 pm
â€œAll of these arguments would work just as well against any given thing that any given body recommends doing with/for your kids, even the things youâ€™re passionately in favor of! Is the thought process around here really that no one should ever suggest anything to any parent?â€
Speaking for myself, itâ€™s not that NOBODY should recommend anything. Itâ€™s that doctors should stick to medicine, largely because what your doctor recommends is, for most people, bound up with the idea of serious harm if you donâ€™t do it, but also because medicine is the only thing theyâ€™re trained in. They are no more competent to evaluate the literature on language or literacy acquisition and make recommendations on it than any other person capable of reading it, and they receive absolutely no education on it in the course of their studies. They are in a perceived position of authority, and to speak from that position in matters outside their field of expertise is a minor abuse of that authority. Other people who â€œmake suggestionsâ€ are not in that position.
The reason pediatricians are involved is learning to talk and learning to read (letters, shapes, colors) are markers of development. Meaning if people don’t learn certain things by an average or eventual deadline (even if relatively later than most) that is a sign of a problem and they are the ones to refer a child to early intervention, usually at the request of a parent, in most cases…
If a child isn’t talking by say age 2 for example they refer them to early intervention. Once they are school age the school might give them speech therapy though. These things aren’t purely knowledge…the pedi is the first line for developmental delays. That is PART of what this is all about.
The other part is basic health of the child, you might disagree but pediatricians but these are issues they are presented with by parents. Many pediatricians hear parent concerns that their child is not at the same level in a skill as a child of similar age. It is important for parents to know that each child achieves skills at different times and there is a lot of variability in childrenâ€™s development.
Parents do play an essential role in helping their children develop the necessary skills to be ready for school. Preschool and Headstart are important ways to help your child to be ready to start kindergarten, and most children are in one of these prekindergarten programs. There are many resources available to help: online, in communities, and through your local school system. To get you started, here are some activities parents can do to help their children be ready for school:
Read books to and with your child.
Expect your child to listen and follow directions.
Turn off the television and provide toys and games that require interaction and problem solving.
Spend time with your child, including playing, cuddling, and hugging.
Create a routine with your child at home, and help your child stick to the routine. The routine may include regular meal times, nap times, and bedtimes.
Help your child develop social skills through playtimes with other children. Some examples include playgroups or more formal preschool activities.
If you are concerned about your childâ€™s school readiness, talk with your pediatrician.
@ By Dee Auckland
I had fun taking my babies places. I am sorry you librarian relative couldn’t enjoy seeing babies at her place of work. It is nice getting together with other parents of the same age. And it is nice having some sort of activity to take up part of the day. Raising kids is hard. But by the time a kid is one they can do story time to at least a degree. Yep. They can.
Reading is being recommended for children in their first year of life (infant = first year of life) so that parent and child get in the habit of including books in their lives to some degree…
Great comment! You make the exact points that should be made. Have to agree with you!
From your last comment I don’t think you understand the AAP guidelines on reading or TV. You should go talk to your pediatrician…
Megs post is really good too!
By Megan Fri Jun 27th 2014 at 9:09 am
Iâ€™m currently studying Speech Pathology and I can tell you exactly why reading is recommended (at least in the world of Communication Sciences)â€¦because it fosters back and forth communication between parent and child. Generally, parents tend to ask questions, have children point to things, point to things themselves, etc. and it is this part of the interaction that is the most important, not the reading itself. There are many other activities that might include the same kind of interaction, but reading is a good, easy way to foster that type of communication. It builds multiple skills at the same time (vocabulary, joint attention, print awareness, etc.). The science is really solid on this one, so I donâ€™t know why anyone would have an issue with a recommendation to read to your kid, even starting from infancy. You donâ€™t have to do it, no ones MAKING you do it, but it is a really quick and easy way to build a number of language and social skills. I mean, your kid will still talk if you donâ€™t read to them, but reading builds skills that go beyond simple verbal communication.
@ Andy Fri Jun 27th 2014 at 9:14 am
The point about the books is that pediatrician think it is a good idea to start a reading habit with your child in the first year of life because it helps them get ready for school (teaching language, sight reading, letters, joint attention, etc). They feel this is important because 1 out of 3 kids are not ready for school (according to kindergarten teachers themselves, researchers, school districts, etc)…
Wow. Sorry about the typos! Haven’t had my morning coffee yet and trying to hustle through my morning! But I think my messages were clear enough…
@Megan, those things are true if we’re talking about reading to older, interested toddlers or to preschool-aged children. But, reading is not a two-way interaction with newborns and infants. They aren’t pointing at anything. They aren’t answering questions. They gain nothing from being read to that they wouldn’t gain from being spoken to. And, some of the suggestions here–like reading to newborns from cereal boxes or textbooks–are likely to be less conducive to language development than interacting directly with the child using infant-directed speech.
There is NO research indicating that reading aloud to newborns and infants has unique benefits.
I guess I don’t get the insecure parenting thing. I know I am doing a bang up job. I am not perfect but I think I do better than most. So I don’t have to feel butthurt if I do something that goes against the AAP standards.
I have my own standards. And they are still pretty high. Sometimes even more conservative or higher than the AAP standards about certain things and other things not as high. Like I was hassled because I did not want to circumcise my sons. I had the pediatrician (not mine but another in the practice) come in and repeatedly question me why I was not having them circumcised. But so what? It was annoying to be bugged like that but I did not burst into tears because I must be a failure as a mother!!!
Why are we so into coddling mother’s feelings that they may not be doing a 100% perfect job? Doesn’t that go against free range attitudes that not everyone gets a trophy and that not everyone is doing a bang up job (when some clearly may not be)??
@ anonymous mom
“There is NO research indicating that reading aloud to newborns and infants has unique benefits.”
Are you saying that there is NO research indicating that reading aloud to a child during the first year of life has benefits? (an infant = 1 to 12 months).
This is a serious question. If you reply that you are indeed saying that I will reply with links to respected journals indicating you are wrong.
I have been reading to my grandkids from birth. I love reading and I love reading to them. I read to my kids as well. I never did it hoping for a certain outcome (although I hope it helped make them love reading as much as I do). I think it is a great activity! I agree that it should NOT become a chore. Just another thing for panicked parents to add to their lists of things that MUST happen or Johnny will be behind. I do think it is an excellent bonding activity.
One of the factors is exposure to language. Children from middle class homes hear tens of thousands more words than lower-income kids, which has knock on effects on language development. The first year is crucial for language development, so greater exposure to words via reading, linking words with meanings through the images, etc, fosters early language development. Also there will be implicit understanding that letters / symbols have meaning, which is an important pre-literacy cognitive step. Exposure to reading in the early years accounts for a substantial amount of the variance in later literacy skills.
That said, there are many other factors that should be accounted for, including adverse environment, poor nutrition, etc, in lower-SES kids, but that should be controlled for statistically in the studies.
And babies like cuddles. Usually there are cuddles when there is reading. 🙂
@SOA, this has nothing to do with coddling mothers. It has to do with opposing recommendations based on bad interpretations of sketchy scientific data. Period.
There are plenty of things the AAP recommends–like only putting your infant to sleep on their back, or keeping children rear-facing in a car seat until at least age 2–that many parents don’t follow but that at least they have some valid scientific basis for recommending. Now, I don’t back sleep my infants if they don’t want to sleep on their backs. I did the “back to sleep” thing with my first, and ended up with a kid who didn’t sleep for more than maybe 2 hours straight until he was 1, and didn’t get a full night’s sleep until he was probably 4. Not wanting to go through that again (and having read the research done on the impact of disrupted sleep on child development, many of which we saw in our oldest), we made the decision that we would not force our other children to be back sleepers. We ended up with two happy tummy-sleeping kids who slept 4-5 hour stretches as newborns and were sleeping through the night by 5-6 months, without any significant struggle. At 2 and 4, they are both happy, healthy kids who routinely sleep 11-12 hours a night with any fuss.
Did it upset me that my ped recommended back sleeping? No. I think that’s well within her expertise and it’s a totally valid recommendation to make. I chose to do otherwise, but I don’t think peds should say nothing about sleep positions (or diet, or vaccinations, or exercise, or any of the many HEALTH-RELATED issues that affect children) even if it might make a mom who doesn’t back sleep her child feel guilty. (And, it did make me feel guilty, especially with my first tummy sleeper. I’m not alone. Mothers admit to each other in hushed voices that they allow their infants to sleep on their tummies, because it’s the only way they’ll sleep soundly, as if they are admitting to plying the child with porn and booze. Because most of us aren’t so entirely full of ourselves that we don’t have some feelings of apprehension or guilt about going against expert advice, even if we know it’s best for our families.)
But with recommendations like reading books to newborn babies or not allowing any screen time to 22 month olds, we’re not talking about either issues with clear research behind them or issues that are directly related to child health. I’m sorry, but vague statements like “Reading to newborn stimulates brain development”–the best I’ve seen of anybody offering the “science” behind this recommendation–shows a total lack of understanding of how the human bring works. ANY stimuli will stimulate brain development. The brain responds to things. That’s what it does. Again, there is NOTHING indicating that newborn or infant brains respond differently to reading than to speech. Nobody is suggesting there is no benefit to reading to children–it has the benefit, in verbal children, of building pre-literacy skills and, if books are well-chosen, of helping vocabulary development–but simply that no actual research suggests that preverbal infants benefit from read alouds versus conversation/singing/rhyming. And that’s just a fact.
Same with the screen time thing. It’s based on voodoo ideas about how the brain works, that somehow TV stimulates the brain in bad ways while books stimulate it in good ways, and on a low view of parents, as if telling them that screen time in moderation for under 2s will lead them to plop their kids in front of the TV all day and never interact with them. (Same with the reading thing, of course. It seems to be premised on the idea that unless parents read to their two-day old babies, they will not read to their 2 or 3 year old children, which the experience of nearly every parent who has ever read to their children proves entirely false.)
“Expert” recommendations based on bad interpretations of science and a mistrust of parents are not a good thing. And that’s what recommendations to read to your children from the day they are born are.
Dirk, cutting and pasting from research studies simply shows that you don’t understand them.
A preverbal infant is NOT making links between text and spoken words. They are not developmentally ready to make those links. Give them a year or so, and they will be.
Newborns are not toddlers are not preschoolers. Respecting the unique developmental stages that children go through, and recognizing the limitations of each, is important if we are going to have sensible views about childrearing. Assuming that a 3 month old baby is capable of the same pre-literacy learning as a 2-1/2 year old child is asinine.
The effects of reading to infants and toddlers were examined in a meta-analysis of six intervention studies including
408 participants. Results indicated that interventions were effective in promoting the childrenâ€™s expressive and receptivelanguage. The benefits of the interventions increased the earlier the interventions were started and the longer they were implemented.
Reviews the benefits of early exposure to books for infants and toddlers. Benefits include language and vocabulary development and creation of an emotional connection to books and reading. Offers suggestions on reading to infants and toddlers, advice on selecting appropriate books, and tips for making simple homemade books. (TJQ)
The purpose of this study was to find out how follow-up activities of reading picture books influenced infants’ language and socio-emotional development. Subjects of this study were 27 2-year-old infants at public day care centers in Busan. After implementing follow-up activities of reading picture books for 8 weeks, this study tried to investigate changes in infants’ language and socio-emotional development. Results of this study are as follows. First, follow-up activities of reading pictures have brought positive impacts on infants’ language ability. Results indicate a positive influence on infants’ expressive and acceptive language ability. Second, follow up activities have also enhanced infants’ socio-emotional development. Sepcifically, they have been effective in improving infants’ low-level socio-emotional development such as ‘internal control’, ‘peer interaction’, and ‘achievement motivation’. It is expected that the follow-up activities developed by this research would help to enhance infants’ language development and socio-emotional development.
The results of this study establish prospectively that shared reading at 8 months of age is associated with infants’ later expressive language abilities, both at 12 months and also at 16 months, even when controlling for 12-month expressive language scores. In other words, shared reading experiences at 8 months are associated with 16-month expressive language, over and above the infant’s own preexisting expressive language abilities. This finding replicates retrospective studies that indicated age of onset of shared reading was inversely related to language abilities in preschool (DeBaryshe, 1993 and Payne et al., 1994). Past studies have found the age of onset of shared reading to be between 7.6 and 9 months in middle-class samples, and the present study supports the efficacy of reading to infants at this age.
Research on literacy development is increasingly making clear the centrality of oral language to long-term literacy development, with longitudinal studies revealing the continuity between language ability in the preschool years and later reading. The language competencies that literacy builds upon begin to emerge as soon as children begin acquiring language; thus, the period between birth and age three also is important to later literacy. Book reading consistently has been found to have the power to create interactional contexts that nourish language development. Researchers, pediatricians, and librarians have taken notice of the potential for interventions designed to encourage parents to read with their children. This article reviews research on the connections between language and later reading, environmental factors associated with language learning, and interventions developed in varied countries for encouraging book use by parents of young children.
Read the articles. Talk to your pediatrician.
This what you will learn what I said earlier…
The first year is crucial for language development, so greater exposure to words via reading, linking words with meanings through the images, etc, fosters early language development. Also there will be implicit understanding that letters / symbols have meaning, which is an important pre-literacy cognitive step. Exposure to reading in the early years accounts for a substantial amount of the variance in later literacy skills.
That said, there are many other factors that should be accounted for, including adverse environment, poor nutrition, etc, in lower-SES kids, but that should be controlled for statistically in the studies.
And can we stop with the superiority? I mean, seriously: your kids are not going to be smarter because you read to them when they were just born. Sorry, but they won’t be.
I started reading to my oldest when he began to show an interest in books, which for him was probably around 11 months or so, and we didn’t read on a regular, daily basis until he was around 2. At 5 he was reading at a 5th grade level, and he scored above the 12th grade level on the reading and language arts standardized tests he took at his charter school, this year for fourth grade. They didn’t know what to do with him. He ended up spending much of group work time doing independent work on the computer (which is a big part of why I decided to homeschool him).
My youngest knew all of his letters by about 16 months, and knew all of their sounds before he was 2. By 2-1/2 he could write nearly all of his letters and decipher simple CVC words. He tells me jokes like, “Knock knock. (Who’s there?) Capital A. (Capital A who?) Capital A says ‘ah’ and turns into lowercase A!” Nerd. That kid has maybe sat on my lap and listened to a full book maybe 2-3 dozen times in his entire life. More often than not, a few pages in he grabs the book from me and wants to “read” it himself.
My middle kid is more typical. We started reading to her regularly when she showed interest in books around 1-1/2 or so, and she likes sitting still for a couple of stories. My husband probably reads aloud to her at least 30 minutes each night, and I read her another book or two during the day most days. And, honestly, she’s the slowest to read out of the bunch (although still well within the range of normal), despite being read to significantly more than the others.
My parents did not read to me as a baby. Like most parents, around 1 or 2 they started reading me a story or two at bedtime. I was an excellent and avid reader, and went on to get a graduate degree in English. There was actually one woman in my grad program who bragged about how her mom read her Shakespeare as an infant, and everybody just thought it was a silly, obnoxious thing to brag about (and nobody else had stories of being read to as an infant). She was kicked out of the program in her second year for poor performance, one of only two people I’m aware of that having happened to in the five years I was there.
Don’t say newborn because that is not the focus of the AAP or any of this.
A newborn is an infant who is only hours, days, or up to a few weeks old. In medical contexts, newborn or neonate (from Latin, neonatus, newborn) refers to an infant in the first 28 days after birth;
The term infant is typically applied to young children between the ages of 1 month and 12 months; however, definitions may vary between birth and 1 year of age, or even between birth and 2 years of age.
The AAP is talking about the children you say “A preverbal infant is NOT making links between text and spoken words. They are not developmentally ready to make those links. Give them a year or so, and they will be.”
Yeah so, you know during the first year of life. Like the age of kids in the studies I cut and pasted the abstracts of and provided links to that work.
hi am, dont be so insecure…
Dirk, once again, all you are proving is that you don’t understand literacy research. Not a single link you’ve provided shows any benefit to reading to children FROM BIRTH. Newborn babies don’t benefit from being read to. It’s a stupid thing to turn into a recommendation.
FOR THE LAST TIME!!!
“And can we stop with the superiority? I mean, seriously: your kids are not going to be smarter because you read to them when they were just born. Sorry, but they wonâ€™t be.”
NO DUH! But 1 on 3 kindergarten kids are not ready for kindergarten according to schools, teachers, and researchers. If you read to your kid regularly as part of interacting with your kid overall they will be more likely to prepared for school. That is all this is about. Not the mom who made you feel bad because she was a jerk…No one is saying read to newborns to make super smart kids, the AAP is saying it would be better if we could get more people into the habit of reading to their child starting somewhere between age zero and two but preferable before age one so they get in the habit of reading as part of interacting with their kid. Done.
Facts are not insecurity.
Seriously, dude, I’m a college writing teacher. If I actually thought that reading to newborns would make people more literate, I’d be the first to recommend it, because it would mean less time for me reading badly-written papers.
However, knowing the research, I know that’s not the case. I’d rather see the emphasis be on things that ACTUALLY DO increase literacy skills, like reading to older children, structured and age-appropriate reading and writing instruction, and especially more emphasis on reading (both being read to and reading alone) for older elementary and middle school children, an age when many kids stop reading and/or being read to and when they do start having the skills to develop a sophisticated vocabulary and to grapple with complex ideas.
Again, for most families, reading to infants is unnecessary; we do not have an epidemic of either illiteracy or inability to learn language at all in this country. For at-risk families in need of intervention, reading books is at best a band-aid. I deal with a lot of students who come from at-risk homes, and not having been read to at 6 weeks old does not even count among their academic disadvantages.
INFANTS = up to TWO YEARS OF AGE IN THE LITERATURE!!!!!!!!!
AAP IS SAYING REMIND PARENTS STARTING IN THE FIRST YEAR OF THEIR KIDS LIFE TO READ TO THEIR KIDS!!!!!!
MOST PEDIATRICIANS WONT START MENTIONING IT “FROM BIRTH” UNTIL THE CHILD IS 3 to 6 MONTHS OF AGE!!!!
YOU ARE STUCK IN A LOOP WHERE YOU WONT ADMIT THAT STUDY AFTER STUDY DOES SAY “INFANT”
I DO NOT AGREE THAT READING TO NEWBORNS DOES ANYTHING! I DO AGREE THAT READING TO INFANTS (Children between the age of 0 to 24 months) HAS MEASURABLE POSITIVE EFFECTS AS DOES EVERY SINGLE JOURNAL ARTICLE I HAVE POSTED.
IF YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND THESE SIMPLE FACTS YOU ARE CAUGHT IN A CONFIRMATION BIAS LOOP AND SHOULD HAVE YOUR PARTNER OR A THIRD PARTY READ THIS ENTIRE COMMENT SECTION AND GIVE YOU A NON BIASED OPINION.
Maybe your pediatrician would like to help you out some…
And, again, you show that you don’t understand what “reading to children from birth” means.
“But 1 on 3 kindergarten kids are not ready for kindergarten according to schools, teachers, and researchers.”
Which probably has more to do with increasingly unrealistic expectations for kindergartners than with any problem on the part of kids or parents. Rather than dealing with that at the curricular level, they choose to place the blame on parents. And, I say this as a mom who dealt with the opposite problem, a kid who was very academically advanced when he entered kindy. But, he’s kind of a freak of nature ;), and it doesn’t change the fact that, as somebody with some understanding of children’s literacy development, for many if not most children, today’s K-2 expectations are unrealistic.
….its about forming habits…
Dirk, enough. Just admit you are wrong. A recommendation that parents read to their children DAILY FROM BIRTH is not the same as recommending that parents start reading to their children sometime between 0-24 months. I suppose if you had been read to as a newborn, you might be able to see the difference. 😉
Just like a recommendation that screen time be avoided for all under 2s is not saying that moderate screen time is okay for under 2s.
Well to be honest AM there is also research that shows positive effects for reading (and talking) to children in the womb. Guess you wont read those studies either though…
From birth = meaning remind parents during one of their well child visits in the first year. Not right in the delivery room, or in the first 6 weeks. Ask your pediatrician about it…because they are the ones implementing it. No one is every going to tell someone from the moment of delivery to read, or even at 6 weeks. Ask your pediatrician when they will suggest it. You are misrepresenting EVERYTHING because you have an agenda unrelated to reality and the truth.
Because this is what I got when I asked my on pediatrician:
The AAP is talking about kids during their first year of life and up, not 1 day old newborns. See belowâ€¦
I stopped by my pediatricians office on the way home and talked (not to our specific pediatrician but the nurse practitioner) and was told that their office was already in line with the AAP statement because they were loosely following the ideas of something called Reach out and Read which is part of what is informing the AAPâ€™s conclusions. She confirmed that they mention reading to a child by their 2nd or 3rd month as a way to interact, and they mentions reading regularly at the 6 month. She said that any doctor that tells you to read to what is commonly called a newborn is kinda â€œnot getting it right.â€ I asked about how their was a lot of discussion about reading from â€œbirthâ€ and she basically said that was a bit of a misnomer. That of course you can read to a newborn but you could just talk to them too and it would be the same. Although there is nothing wrong with reading to a newborn of course. She said that they mean you should start reading to them as babies, which she actually said meant before they were two in her opinion but that the AAP means someone less than about a year old, â€œessentially anyone who has NOT learned to walk yetâ€ was her exact phrase. She said though that most kids around 6 months are able to follow along with a book to a degree, that before then reading to a say 1 or 2 month old is just another way to interact with them, and that surprise surprise it is best to get in the habit of reading early. She said once the kids get to the age of 6 the stop mentioning it because the kids are in school by then and their teachers â€œtake overâ€ that aspect. That if they were behind prior they would recommend early intervention but that when the kids start school they get support of developmental delays through the schools such as speech therapy and physical therapy. Also, that being read to and reading on your own has cognitive benefits at all ages from the opinion of their office. I have to say I never felt â€œpressuredâ€ to read since we have been using them, but I do remember them talking about it. They probably said maybe 5 sentences about it once a yearâ€¦
Everyoneâ€™s experiences differ of course, but probably not by all that muchâ€¦
I really suggest you do ask what your pediatrician thinks because these guidelines are for pediatrician offices and were written by pediatricians. Instead of just writing it off because we donâ€™t like to be told what to do or because we donâ€™t like so called experts or because you think whatever, maybe you should find out from the horses mouth why they think somethingâ€¦
or the first time, I have to disagree with this blog. Â For starters no one likes going to pediatrician and being drilled on our parenting skills, me included. Â But I teach 6th grade English. Â My students are behind at least 2-3 grade levels. Â They are in poverty and at risk. Â I would bet my bottom dollar that no one read to them as babies or preschoolers. I think this new mandate is aimed at educating parents that do not instinctively talk, Â interact, Â or read with their young children. This creates children that do not think education is important and do not have any background knowledge to connect to new knowledge.Â
I agree it takes more than just reading to develop a child’s mind but it is important.Â
It is hard to believe that there are huge groups of people that do not sing, Â read, rhyme, or talk to babies and preschoolers. Â These kids are behind at 3rd grade and rarely ever catch up.Â
So I look at it as a way to teach uneducated parents how to break the cycle of poor reading skills and low performing students. Extreme deficiency requires extreme response.
I am just thrilled I will have a question I can easily answer yes to at our next pediatrician visit!Â
I disagree with Lenore. For the first time, I have to disagree with this blog. Â For starters no one likes going to pediatrician and being drilled on our parenting skills, me included. Â But I teach 6th grade English. Â My students are behind at least 2-3 grade levels. Â They are in poverty and at risk. Â I would bet my bottom dollar that no one read to them as babies or preschoolers. I think this new mandate is aimed at educating parents that do not instinctively talk, Â interact, Â or read with their young children. This creates children that do not think education is important and do not have any background knowledge to connect to new knowledge.Â
I agree it takes more than just reading to develop a child’s mind but it is important.Â
It is hard to believe that there are huge groups of people that do not sing, Â read, rhyme, or talk to babies and preschoolers. Â These kids are behind at 3rd grade and rarely ever catch up.Â
So I look at it as a way to teach uneducated parents how to break the cycle of poor reading skills and low performing students. Extreme deficiency requires extreme response.
I am just thrilled I will have a question I can easily answer yes to at our next pediatrician visit!Â
To me it goes with have the courage of your convictions. If you are 100% convinced that reading to your infant is pointless or not something you want to do, then don’t do it. But then why do you care or get butthurt if pediatricians suggest you do it? They suggest a lot of things as others pointed out and you can pick and choose what you want to do. Now you may end up sorry you did not listen to them, but that is your choice.
I knew that not circumcising my sons was not going to be a popular choice since in our area it is mostly done with a vast majority. I knew the pediatricians might give me a hard time about it. But my husband and I had done our own research and made our own decision. So we knew we were right regardless of what anyone else said. So we were willing to stand up for that decision. And we did. When the pediatrician came in and hassled us about it, we hassled him right on back.
I was secure in MY decision and THEIR parent. I expect nothing less from other parents. Have the courage of your convictions. If you think you are doing right. Then who gives a crap what some pediatrician or some random person on the internet thinks? You can argue with them for fun about it. But sometimes it just comes across as you are insecure because maybe you know in the back of your mind it was the wrong decision so you feel guilt and want to defend it and call anyone who argues with you “judgmental”. That makes you judgmental about their imagined judgmentalism.
@Dirk, if you believe there are “scientific benefits” to reading to infants in the womb, then you are unable to distinguish between valid scientific research and pseudoscience (or pseudoscientific conclusions drawn from research).
@SOA, this bothers me AS AN EDUCATOR. As a person with enough background in literacy research to know that a recommendation to read to newborns is not based on that body of research in any valid way, I don’t like seeing so many people blindly believing MYTHS about literacy. As somebody who is dealing with your kids when they graduate high school and still can’t write a coherent paragraph or identify the main point of a piece of writing, it is important to me that people not believe cultural superstitions about literacy, but instead understand what actually works.
The belief that reading to newborns is good because reading is brain magic is simply, completely, flatly wrong. Once again, to the extent that reading DOES benefit younger children, we know why, and it’s not because parents reading printed words off a page to a child creates a special voodoo in the brain that makes kids smarter or better able to learn. It’s because 1) it supports vocabulary development and 2) it develops necessary, long-identified pre-literacy skills. That’s all. There is no magic. There is no special manipulation of brain connections.
I know more about literacy than my pediatrician (who has never said anything to me about reading to my children, either because she saw no reason to, as their development has been fine, or because she simply doesn’t dispense educational advice). That’s not bragging, it’s simply a recognition of our various fields of expertise. I have never studied childhood diseases, and she has never studied early childhood literacy. So, no, I’m not going to assume that a pediatrician–or posters here with no background in literacy education–have more understanding of how children learn to read than the actual experts in the field I’ve known, none of whom would pretend that reading to newborns is important.
Few things are more frustrating that seeing people pretend to be experts on things they not only aren’t experts on, but don’t actually understand at all. And if people think that reading to a newborn somehow uniquely stimulates the brain or that it does special sciencey stuff to the brain, they do not understand either literacy or neuroscience. The internet is a fun place to pretend we’re smarter than we are, but believing in brain voodoo is not a sign of a particularly good understanding of childhood language development, and honestly many of the posts here seem to mainly be espousing beliefs in brain voodoo and also assigning far more influence to extremely early parental choices than they have.
Personally, I’ve also noticed, in general, an inverse correlation between how great of a parent somebody thinks they are and how good of a parent they actually are (the better job they think they are doing, the more they think they are superior to other parents, the less likely it is that either is actually true) that I’d advise all of us to keep an eye out for in ourselves.
AM…did you bother to even look at all the research I posted? Do you know what bothers doctors, research phd, and people actually doing the research? That you either a) don’t bother to read the research, or b) even if you have (which I suspect you haven’t) you refuse to update what you know simply because you have a specific world view.
AM, why would the people doing the research you claim to have read (you know, the members of the AAP) lie about it?
Here is some research about in the womb you say are lies…
“Language experienced in utero affects vowel perception after birth: a two-country study: The ambient language to which foetuses are exposed in the womb starts to affect their perception of their native language at a phonetic level. This can be measured shortly after birth by differences in responding to familiar vs. unfamiliar vowels.
“Learning-induced neural plasticity of speech processing before birth”
Learning, the foundation of adaptive and intelligent behavior, is based on changes in neural assemblies and reflected by the modulation of electric brain responses. In infancy, long-term memory traces are formed by auditory learning, improving discrimination skills, in particular those relevant for speech perception and understanding. Here we show direct neural evidence that neural memory traces are formed by auditory learning prior to birth. Our findings indicate that prenatal experiences have a remarkable influence on the brainâ€™s auditory discrimination accuracy, which may support, for example, language acquisition during infancy. Consequently, our results also imply that it might be possible to support early auditory development and potentially compensate for difficulties of genetic nature, such as language impairment or dyslexia.
Oh, and here is one I have gotten a kick out of for a few years now…
“Newborns’ Cry Melody Is Shaped by Their Native Language”
Human fetuses are able to memorize auditory stimuli from the external world by the last trimester of pregnancy, with a particular sensitivity to melody contour in both music and language 1, 2 and 3. Newborns prefer their mother’s voice over other voices 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 and perceive the emotional content of messages conveyed via intonation contours in maternal speech (â€œmothereseâ€) . Their perceptual preference for the surrounding language 10, 11 and 12 and their ability to distinguish between prosodically different languages 13, 14 and 15 and pitch changes  are based on prosodic information, primarily melody. Adult-like processing of pitch intervals allows newborns to appreciate musical melodies and emotional and linguistic prosody . Although prenatal exposure to native-language prosody influences newborns’ perception, the surrounding language affects sound production apparently much later . Here, we analyzed the crying patterns of 30 French and 30 German newborns with respect to their melody and intensity contours. The French group preferentially produced cries with a rising melody contour, whereas the German group preferentially produced falling contours. The data show an influence of the surrounding speech prosody on newborns’ cry melody, possibly via vocal learning based on biological predispositions.
All the journal articles I have posted come from research universities. just FYI.
By the way here is the AAP suggestions…from their own website!
they seem very reasonable! no magic super baby statements made! it seems to very reasonable talk about how un-serious it seems at first but then becomes a routine and kids are ready for school! good stuff!
In the spirit of making both good eating and reading a part of every healthy childhood, the following is a quick book-related look at the well-defined developmental milestones of early literacy.
Younger Than 6 Months: Never Too Young
Unlike solid foods, it is never too early to start reading with your baby. Who cares if itâ€™s the sports page or Elmoâ€”it will be the time you share together that counts, so have fun with it!
6â€“12 Months: Developing a Taste for Books
Whatever babies are interested in at this age, they predictably put straight in their mouths. Books are no exception. Now that your baby can sit in your lap; grab for a book; and show her interest by batting at, turning, or gumming the pages, youâ€™ll find yourself especially appreciative of board books for their drool-proof nature.
1â€“2 Years: Becoming Routine
As with food, your child will now figure out thereâ€™s a lot more she can do with books than just put them in her mouth. As she makes a point of holding them, turning them right-side up, and carrying them to you to read time after time, you can start relating whatâ€™s in her books to her real-life experiencesâ€”pointing to pictures and asking simple yet pointed questions like, â€œWhereâ€™s the pea? Can you find the pea?â€ Before you know it, sheâ€™ll be answering your questions, filling in the ends of each sentence, and reciting her VeggieTales back to you. As with meals, donâ€™t expect a long attention span, since itâ€™s the quality of the time spent that really matters, not the quantity.
2â€“3 Years: Read, Read, and Read Again
Two-year-olds thrive on routine and love to master the power of predictability, so donâ€™t be surprised if yours is less than willing to try something new and instead wants to read the same story over and over (and over) again. If bedtime books have now become a habitâ€”great! This is one habit youâ€™ll never need to break.
Author Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP and Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP
Last Updated 8/26/2013
Source Heading Home With Your Newborn, 2nd Edition (Copyright Â© 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics)
Apparently there are still some people in our population who think doctors are God.
No…I just don’t think all people who go to school for a long time, study the same thing for along time, work for a long time in their field and then write about what they have researched in seen in peer reviewed journals are liars or stupid.
This isn’t fringe stuff this is consensus. This is middle of the road mainstream.
Hearing and listening in the womb
Between 0 and 16 weeks
At this early stage the unborn baby is surrounded by sound, vibrations and motions which are ‘felt’ through the skin and skeletal systems.
A study by Graven and Browne (2008) found that voices can be heard in the womb above the natural noises of the mother and other distorted noises from outside. Intonation patterns of pitch, stress and rhythm can be heard clearly as well as music.
There have been various studies into foetal listening. Shahidullah and Hepper (1992) demonstrated that reactive listening begins at around 16 weeks. This is significant as the ear is not fully complete until 24 weeks. At 16 weeks the unborn baby is particularly receptive to its motherâ€™s voice. This is because the vibrations that travel through her body to the womb are stronger than noises coming from outside the womb. At 20 â€“ 24 weeks, the unborn baby can recognise the deeper tones of its father’s voice.
Around 24 weeks
Babies develop preferences for music while in the womb. Fridman (2000) found that the babiesâ€™ heart rates increased and that they moved around in rhythm to the music. Once born, the infant responds more to certain music. Fridman discovered that infants who had heard a song composed by their parents and played regularly before birth were able to imitate it by nine months old.
Other studies by Clements, (1977) and Verny and Weintraub (1991/2000) suggest that unborn babies are calmer when listening to music by Mozart and Vivaldi. When exposed to Beethoven, Brahms and rock music the unborn infant became disturbed and moved around more. Hepper (1988) noticed that infant who had heard a soap opera theme tune regularly before birth recognised the tune once born.
From 24 weeks
Unborn babies respond to the rhythm of being read to. They will move about and kick. Studies by DeCasper and Fifer (1980) and Kolata (1984) found that infants who were read ‘A Cat in a Hat’ twice a day 6.5 weeks before birth would suck more if they heard ‘A Cat in a Hat’ read by their mother rather than an unfamiliar childrenâ€™s poem ‘The King, the Mice, and the Cheese’, also read by the infantsâ€™ mothers.
The parents of the unborn child can stimulate their infant and develop early communication skills by introducing their child to music and reading right from the start. Infants respond well to music as the lilting melody combined with words, pitch, intonation and phrasing help the baby to remember. The parentese used by adults when talking to their new born infant imitates the same patterns found in music which infants respond to best.
Babies learn in the womb…”First of all, they learn the sound of their mothers’ voices. Because sounds from the outside world have to travel through the mother’s abdominal tissue and through the amniotic fluid that surrounds the fetus, the voices fetuses hear, starting around the fourth month of gestation, are muted and muffled. One researcher says that they probably sound a lot like the the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher in the old “Peanuts” cartoon. But the pregnant woman’s own voice reverberates through her body, reaching the fetus much more readily. And because the fetus is with her all the time, it hears her voice a lot. Once the baby’s born, it recognizes her voice and it prefers listening to her voice over anyone else’s.”
FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT LIKE TO READ!!!
Dirk, is someone paying you by the word?
@ Beth. Nope. I wish. But some people keep saying “A isn’t true!” and it only takes a literally two minutes to google the thing they claim isn’t true and provide fact based evidence to the contrary. The stance of the AAP has been misrepresented and the science has been misrepresented. The misrepresentation seems to stem from having a certain intransigent world view rather than not knowing…
Seriously. If you reread this entire thread…you’ll come around.
I haven’t had time to read all 361 comments here, but my immediate reaction is that I agree with Lenore. Here’s why: by saying “read to your baby” (not child, but baby) we’re pushing a Western, upper-class socio-economic criteria on EVERYONE. And if that’s the only culture with value.
My own ancestors born in the 19th century (this would be my great-grandparents or before) may or may not have been able to read or write. But they sang, told stories, and had a rich cultural life that didn’t necessarily include books at home. I LOVE to read… but my sister and brother aren’t crazy about it – however, they are both executives, and I am not.
Are cultures where the oral tradition is stronger than the written tradition “not as good”? Pushing reading as if its as important as caring for and loving your baby is pretty WASP ethnocentric, if you ask me.
Well, Aimee, it’s apparently a scientific consensus that reading to your 6-day old baby from a Sandra Boynton board book is going to have much more positive impact on their brain function than telling the same child a story from an oral tradition. Because books have magic powers. That’s certainly not the white bourgeoisie assuming cultural superiority; it’s SCIENCE!
One more time because you apparently can’t read or are hard of hearing. No one is saying anything like what you are lamenting.
This is what you just said…”Well, Aimee, itâ€™s apparently a scientific consensus that reading to your 6-day old baby from a Sandra Boynton board book is going to have much more positive impact on their brain function than telling the same child a story from an oral tradition. Because books have magic powers. Thatâ€™s certainly not the white bourgeoisie assuming cultural superiority; itâ€™s SCIENCE!”
No one is saying that. You clearly have some sort of knee jerk conspiracy agenda against…I don’t know what.
Nope, reading to your 6 day old is NOT better than telling them a story. Interacting with your child in a variety of ways is good. Talking to you child is certainly better than only reading cue cards with them. (Which is why I posted a million years ago to this very thread that “the learning scale would be worst = tv, better = reading, best = interaction through talking…” But I guess you don’t actually read, think, or remember anything other than what you want.) So, I agree reading to your 6 day old is NOT better than telling them a story. Interacting with your child in a variety of ways is good. Talking to you child is certainly better than only reading cue cards with them. Reading also has benefits primarily during the ages 2 years and up, during infancy 1-24 months reading also has benefits. And yes, children also learn in the womb. (The learn the sound of their mothers voice for example, and the cries of children are different depending on the languages they parents speak). I point you to the peer reviewed journal articles I posted as reference. If you would like to actually rebuff any of these claims I would like you to point me to some scientific evidence.
IF you can’t even agree to the above…(in its simplest form that people of ALL ages learn from interaction from the womb till they are dead and that for newborn, infants, toddler, and preschool that except for outliers the way scale of learning goes worst = tv, better = reading, best = interaction through talking…”) if you can’t agree to even this then you are as insane as a cop that arrests a dad for letting his 8 year old play in his own neighborhood.
Aimee, that is a good point. Being ready to read early isn’t the be-all and end-all for all families, and that is OK.
best parenting = interaction through talking
I teach 1st grade in a title 1 school, which means that more than half of our students are on food stamps. I like the new advice to read to children from birth because many of my students have zero books at home. They have literally NEVER been read to. Their vocabulary is incredibly limited, which makes learning to read that much harder. It’s hard to sound out “lug” or “cot” when you’ve never heard those words in your life. If just a few women hear from their doctors that reading from birth helps, and they are able to read to their babies even 1% more than they do now, it is worth it.
“Again, we should be critical of advocatesâ€™ claims. While it is true that children who are â€œschool-readyâ€ do better at age three, by the time they reach the third grade these advantages fade entirely so that it is impossible to tell who was â€œschool readyâ€ and who was not.”
As a former librarian and now teaching reading intervention, I couldn’t agree more. While I will always advocate for reading to or with a child, instilling the never-ending parent guilt trip of one must read to their infant beginning at birth or egads, in the womb, is just pure nonsense.
Linguistically, babies learn from listening to their family speak and watching the world around them. I really get quite frustrated at how we feel the need to have children getting college ready as soon as they step foot in the Kindergarten classroom, if not sooner. We must start teaching them to be “critical thinkers” or all the other latest buzz words that mean nothing. Run, babies, run! Before you can walk, that is.
Dolly, if you want your doctor to be a full-service parenting expert, that’s your choice. Just know he didn’t learn anything about that in med school.
The most active stage of brain development (and everything else) is during gestation. Read to your child in utero! Even better, play violin music to him/her, preferably live. Piano is second best.
If you have failed that early task, then read to your child when s/he is 18, a time when he will deperately need more advice.
I may be wrong but I was under the impression when going into study for pediatrics they actually do have to take a lot of courses on child development mentally as well as physically because like I said, they are supposed to look for and identify developmental delays. They can’t do that if they have no idea how to do that.
I mean almost every mother I know that has a child with autism had it diagnosed by their pediatrician or at least start the process through the pediatrician. I was the rare find that I myself knew he was delayed and since my doctor did nothing I had to go about getting him tested and services myself. That is not the norm.
One thing that I don’t think has been pointed out yet is, “sitting in front of a screen all day” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if it’s occasional. There are times when it might happen–illness, snow days when the weather is really not conducive to playing outside, long-haul flights, or even just, say, CTV deciding to show all eight Harry Potter movies consecutively. So, if a normal weekday for the Hypothetical family consists of, say, wake up, breakfast, school, dance/soccer/swimming/gymnastics/Brownies/art class depending on the day, dinner, homework, and bed, and then Saturday is spent hiking in the woods, or visiting family, and THEN Sunday was a movie day, that would still be “balanced.” It’s sort of like a parenting article that I read ages ago (even though I don’t have kids), that said that really young kids self-regulate with their diets. So, if a child eats nothing but Oreos one day, then don’t freak out, because they might eat a ton of fruits and vegetables the next day. Screen time can be like that too–when I was in high school, my life got pretty hectic with school and various extra-curriculars (band, band executive, student council, and a few other shorter-term projects), so there were definitely days when I just wanted to veg out in front of the TV and/or the computer, and that was okay sometimes, if I wasn’t neglecting other responsibilities for it.
P.S., I forgot to mention interactive screen time–so, doing an exercise video or a Rainbow Loom tutorial on YouTube, or Skyping with a family member or friend who lives far away. Do the sanctimommies of the world consider these activities to be as harmful as passively watching TV or movies? I don’t think they are, because you get something positive out of it–exercise, learning a new skill, interaction with another person, etc.
Dude I do not judge parents who let their kids watch a decent amount of tv. I have been guilty of over doing it myself. But when they were babies it was not on unless my husband and I were watching it. I did not set them up to watch kid shows until a year old they started watching PBS kids. Then as time went on they watched more and got into video games.
So I am not anti-tv. I am anti- that is all you do with your kids. Like with everything else you have to find a happy medium. My kids may play video games for two hours but then we go to the pool for several hours and then we read at night and then we have free play for awhile too. You gotta balance it.
They don’t really take full classes in their specialties, Dolly. When they’re in their rotations (3rd and 4th year med school) they do attend lectures on the branches of medicine, and when they’re in the residency for their specialty (e.g. pediatrics) they do have more lectures/seminars on such things. But mostly it’s clinical practice, and little to no time studying non-physical issues like the long-term literacy effects of reading to infants. Certainly they have less expertise in it than most people with master’s degrees in education or a related field, and not much more than people with bachelor’s in a more relevant field.
But as I said, my real problem here is that they don’t know anything, it’s that they’re posing as experts in a field they have no special expertise in it. I, too, could read an abstract handed me by a professional organization, but that wouldn’t actually make me an expert in the area. People regard their doctors as experts in whatever the doctors choose to involve themselves in (that’s just a cultural reality) and so I find it abusive (though only in a small way) for them to use that reputation where it isn’t warranted.
@anonymous mom- actually there IS a great deal of evidence that reading earlier increases a number of skills. And in this case, the science ISN’T sketchy and a number of studies looking at reading to young infants do, in fact, exist. You mentioned that “those things are true if weâ€™re talking about reading to older, interested toddlers or to preschool-aged children,” but, as I said, reading to younger infants also helps them develop skills like joint attention. Others specifically mentioned that newborns “won’t point”…well, duh. It’s not the baby’s pointing that builds the skill, it is the caregiver’s. For one, it helps build eye-tracking skills, a very early-emerging brain development. And since joint attention is the earliest emerging form of social interaction, the earlier infants gain this skill the better. As I said, there are, of course, a number of activities that build these same skills, but reading, even to infants who are 2-3 months old, is a really easy way to build these skills. You may not think they’re “paying attention” or that they’re bored, but that just isn’t the case. They are actually building neuronal connections in the brain (they do this pretty much constantly because their brains are developing at such a rapid pace). Also as I said, there are, of course, a TON of different interactions that can build the same types of connections, but reading is recommended because it is easy, it is cheap, and there is a TON of research supporting its effectiveness in building numerous skills.
@Megan All I can say is that attempts to read to my older daughter while she was infant were very demotivating. I felt guilty for not reading her much, but there was nothing attractive about reading to an uninterested kid. The kid that ignored me (how that builds eye tracking skill?) or crawled to another room if that was possible or tried to put another toy on top of book to make me stop.
It made sense when the kid was actually interested – it was clear that the kid was thinking in much different level then.
I did not tried much to read second while it was that small, not until it was big enough to be interested. Spending time with activities the kid like is much much much easier and pleasant.
All things you talk about can be taught by much easier, much more pleasant interactions and definitely more “natural” interactions.
@Megan I would also add that both kids eye tracking, pointing, language skills and other similar abilities were right there where they were supposed to be. Apparently, us playing, cuddling and showing moving things (trees) to our my second two months old were enough for her to develop all those basics.
@Andy- I never suggested that reading was the only way to build these skills…I said just the opposite, in fact. And kids are all different…my son LOVED being read to, from a very early age. He would sit on my lap and mess with the pages from about 2 or 3 months on. Some babies may not respond that way, and that’s fine. My point is, when it comes to recommendations from pediatricians or whoever, it’s a lot easier to say “read to them!,” which builds a variety of skills at once, than to make a long list of other activities which will also build those skills. It is also a good idea to get into the habit of reading early…by the time my son was walking at 10 months, he would BRING me books to read (particularly a rhyming alphabet book, which I read so many times I can still recite it even though I probably haven’t read it in over a year). Had I waited until he was that age to START reading to him, it would not have been an already entrenched part of our day.
I will also say that I agree with the idea all these recommendations are making parents feel overwhelmed and feel guilty if they don’t strictly abide by them. However, when it comes specifically to the recommendation to read to kids (even infants), I don’t think a brief sentence explaining the benefits and suggesting you incorporate it into your daily routine is any big deal, especially since most parents know this already.
@Megan I do not get the “get into habit way sooner then the activity is needed” thing. There is no point in “getting into habit” of doing something that is not needed to be done. Once it is needed or reasonable, getting into habit of doing it is either easier or exactly as difficult.
I would prefer if I could trust advice given by the doctor. If he is going to tell me “it is essential that you read to your kid every day at least 15-20 minutes” I expect it to be essential. Not just: “Ah, it actually does not matter at all, it is just easy thing to say. You are probably ignoring kid whole day unless we are specific and this activity is as good as any other.”.
What actually happen is that people take pediatricians as authorities. How many people in this thread argued by “doctors say it, so it must be absolute truth”? How many time did you heard “reading to your child every single day from the day one is the single most important thing you can do”? Because I heard that one a lot and it is simply not truth.
Read this comment threads full of people believing that reading is magic and reading the child from back of cereal box will achieve anything. Or comments comparing not reading to neglect.
How much easier is it to say “read” then to say “do not ignore the kid whole day” anyway? Because that is what the thing is boiling down to. If the kid is developing fine and is not behind, chances are parent do not need detailed advice.
My pediatrician used to check developmental milestones (including eye tracking, language skills, etc). I would be glad for advice on how to help the kid where the things are not going well, but I really hate to be asked to do things just because it is “easy to say”.
Part of the disconnect here is that the blog post above doesn’t represent what is being talked about at all…the real thing that the group of pediatricians put together can be found here, and for example it doesn’t say anything about 15-20 minutes a day at all, etc. I really suggest you take the time to read the 4 pages of actual reading and tell us what you think.
I’m just confused by the backlash. Haven’t parent always been given recommendations or advice? Everything from breast feeding/formula, pacifiers, introducing solids foods, where they should sleep, how they should sleep, on and on and on?
I’m sorry – I just don’t think there is any stress put upon parents encouraged to read to their babies. It’s a helluva a lot easier to ready to a baby/toddler/kid than a lot of the other things parents have to manage (like putting them down for naps, weaning, potty training).