Doctor’s Orders: Read to Your Kids

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By News Team on July 26, 2019

Do you have young children? Don’t be surprised if the next time you see your pediatrician, she advises you to start reading to them.

If she does, she'll be following guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which urges pediatricians to encourage parents to read to their kids from infancy to prepare them to succeed in school and life.

Reading stimulates brain development and builds parent-child relationships at a crucial period of a child’s development. This in turn is said to build “language, literacy, and social-emotional skills.”

Studies indicate that every new word a child learns is important to language development. Children whose parents read to them are able to significantly increase the richness of their vocabulary and their understanding of complex syntax.

“It’s an opportunity for the child to sit on the parent’s lap and have that bonding moment where the child is feeling the love of the parent through the book, hearing their voice,” says Brian Gallagher, executive director of the nonprofit Reach Out and Read, which helps pediatricians and family health care providers put 6.5 million age-appropriate books into the hands of parents and children.

The program also trains doctors and nurses on how to speak with parents about the importance of reading to kids. Children served by the program score three to six months ahead on vocabulary tests versus non-program peers.

“We are extremely enthusiastic about Reach Out and Read,” says Donna Deadrick, B.S.N., R.N., C.P.N., of Carilion’s General Pediatrics in Roanoke and regional chairperson for the program. “It brings books into our exam rooms along with an emphasis on early literacy."

“Doctors give new books to children at each well-child visit from 6 months of age to 5 years,” she says. “They also give parents developmentally appropriate advice about reading to their child."

“Our patients look forward to taking home books at their well-checks,” says Kelly D. Henchel, M.D., F.A.A.P., Carilion chief of general pediatrics. “We also have a nice library of donated, gently used books in the office for distributing to children who are asking for books at other visits.”

Carilion is the only provider in the region to participate in Reach Out and Read. Since March 2005, the office has given more than 30,000 books to local children.

This article is adapted from the fall 2014 print issue of Carilion Clinic Living.