Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pediatric Group Promotes Reading Aloud to Children Studies Show Activity Helps to Boost Language Skills, Brain Development at Early Age

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pediatric Group Promotes Reading Aloud to Children Studies Show Activity Helps to Boost Language Skills, Brain Development at Early Age

Article excerpt

Although it has been standard for years in some families for parents to read aloud to their children from birth, not all families do it, so the American Academy of Pediatrics for the first time Tuesday recommended early literacy education.

"The importance and value of reading is something we have known for a long time," said Diego Chaves-Gnecco, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. "The issue is that there are disparities among families, whether due to a lack of resources or just being unaware of the importance of reading, and our role now as pediatricians is to emphasize how vital reading is to the development of every child."

On average, 48 percent of parents nationwide reported reading to their children every day, according to the 2011-12 National Survey of Children's Health. Among families living below the poverty line, only 34 percent read to their children daily. Higher-income families, who earned at least 400 percent of the federal poverty threshold, did somewhat better: Sixty percent read daily to their youngsters.

The impact of these differences can be seen in children at a young age, with 1 in 3 American children entering kindergarten without the proper language skills. This difference continues to affect two-thirds of all children throughout elementary school, and 80 percent of those children who live in families below the poverty threshold fail to develop reading proficiency by the end of third grade.

Under the new recommendations, the academy suggests that pediatricians provide "developmentally appropriate books at health supervision visits for all high-risk, low-income young children."

Programs such as Reach Out and Read are partnering with hospitals nationwide, including Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, to provide books to pediatricians to pass out at their offices. In Pennsylvania, the nonprofit group has helped to distribute more than 138,200 books annually.

"Being able to expose children to books at an early age is vitally important on many different levels" said Robert Cicco, a pediatrician at West Penn Hospital. …

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