Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Parents should read aloud to infants every day, pediatricians say

By Kelly Wallace, CNN
updated 8:48 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Looking for great reads for young people? "Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures," written by Kate DiCamillo, is the 2014 Newbery Medal winner. Click through the gallery to see the rest of the American Library Association's Youth Media Award 2014 winners for children's and young adult literature. Looking for great reads for young people? "Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures," written by Kate DiCamillo, is the 2014 Newbery Medal winner. Click through the gallery to see the rest of the American Library Association's Youth Media Award 2014 winners for children's and young adult literature.
HIDE CAPTION
2014 Newbery Medal
2014 Caldecott Medal
Coretta Scott King Virginia Hamilton Award
Coretta Scott King author award
Coretta Scott King illustrator award
Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award
Printz Award
Schneider Family Book Award
Schneider Family Book Award
Schneider Family Book Award
Alex Award
Alex Award
Alex Award
Alex Award
Alex Award
Alex Award
Alex Award
Alex Award
Alex Award
Alex Award
Carnegie Medal
Edwards Award
Batchelder Award
May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture
Odyssey Award
Pura Belpré illustrator award
Pura Belpré author award
Robert F. Sibert award
Stonewall award
Stonewall award
Theodor S. Geisel Award
William C. Morris Award
YALSA award for nonfiction for young adults
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics announced new guidelines on early literacy
  • Doctors should encourage parents to read out loud to infants and children, group says
  • Research: Low-income children hear fewer words than kids from higher-income families
  • President Barack Obama touted importance of reading out loud in new video

Editor's note: Kelly Wallace is CNN's digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. She is a mom of two girls. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

(CNN) -- It's hard to keep up with so many statistics about modern parenting, but here's one that floored me when I heard it a few years ago: By 4, children living in poverty hear 30 million fewer words than children in higher income households, according to researchers.

Thirty million!

That is horrendous, but it gets worse: Hearing fewer words leads to learning fewer words, which means children start kindergarten with smaller vocabularies and a so-called "word gap." Often, they can't catch up when it comes to academic readiness and long-term achievement, studies have found.

READ: The 'word gap' in America's schools

Clinton a better stateswoman than singer?
Garner: 'Playing field for kids not equal'
Obama: Pre-K is not baby-sitting

This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced new guidelines that encourage doctors to talk to parents not just about nutrition and illnesses but about the importance of reading out loud, singing and talking during an infant's first days.

"Fewer than half of children younger than 5 years old are read to daily in our country," the group's president, James M. Perrin, said in a statement. "The benefits are so compelling that encouraging reading at young children's check-ups has become an essential component of our care."

Pediatricians see 16 million children 5 and younger every year in the United States, said Patti Miller, co-director of Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of the Clinton Foundation and Next Generation, which is focused on helping parents close the "word gap" and improve the lives of children.

"So getting this word out through pediatricians and having them recommend to parents and support reading out loud to their children starting in infancy is so amazing and critically important," Miller said.

My husband and I read aloud to our girls, 6 and 8, every day from the minute they were born, and we still do it during breakfast or before bedtime. Their love of reading shows us they have certainly benefited, and it truly pains me to think about their peers who might have missed out before enrolling in elementary school.

READ: How to keep kids reading through the summer

New screen rules for babies and kids
Revolt: The kindergartners take over!
Debate over the cursing toddler video

President Barack Obama, in a video released by the White House on Wednesday, saluted the move by the doctor's group in connection with Too Small to Fail to help "bridge the word gap'" and increase children's chances of success later in life.

"We know that ... if a black or Latino child isn't ready for kindergarten, they're half as likely to finish middle school with strong academic and social skills," Obama said.

"By giving more of our kids access to high-quality preschool and other early learning programs -- and by helping parents get the tools they need to help their kids succeed -- we can give those kids a better shot at the career they're capable of, and the life that will make us all better off."

The key is getting the message to parents who too often don't realize the importance of reading aloud, talking and singing in the early years, Miller said.

"While this is a big gap, the good news is that the solution is pretty straightforward and we know that if we can get this important message out to parents about why you need to talk, read and sing, it can go a long way in terms of ameliorating this word gap," she added.

READ: How not to let your kid's brain turn to mush over the summer break

CNN\'s Kelly Wallace writes that she and her husband read aloud to their girls every day since they were born.
CNN's Kelly Wallace writes that she and her husband read aloud to their girls every day since they were born.

The mission has some bipartisan support. Too Small to Fail released videos Wednesday of Cindy McCain, wife of Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain, former GOP Sen. Bill Frist and Hillary Clinton, who are teaming up to raise awareness about the importance of early literacy.

Clinton talked about how she sang to her daughter, Chelsea, every night when she was a baby. When Chelsea finally mouthed "No sing, mommy, no sing," Clinton went back to reading, she said in the video.

"Singing, reading or just talking is an important part of not only my daughter's brain development, but every child's," Clinton said. "Thanks to new research, we know that children's brains light up and make new connections when their parents speak to them from the earliest days, but many of our youngest kids aren't getting the support they need to grow and thrive."

Said Cindy McCain, "As a parent and former teacher, I'm very familiar with the way a child's eyes light up when he or she first starts to understand a new concept. Every moment a parent spends with a child, talking, singing, reading a bedtime story is an opportunity to make a lifelong impact in the child's life."

As part of the effort, Scholastic Inc. is donating 500,000 books for children up to 3 years old during the next year. The books will be distributed to 20,000 medical providers nationwide to be given to families during pediatrician visits.

The American Academy of Pediatricians and Too Small to Fail are also developing a toolkit to help doctors teach parents how they can add more communication with their infants and toddlers to every day activities such as diaper changes, meal time, bath time and bus rides.

READ: New screen rules for children from pediatricians

Stay in touch!
Don't miss out on the conversation we're having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories and tell us what's influencing your life.

"Parents don't have a lot of extra time. They're working, they're often working multiple jobs and doing their best to get everything done in a day so what we're trying to do is make these tips very simple and straightforward," Miller said.

If you have an infant or a toddler or you know anyone who does, encourage them to sing, talk and read aloud to their littlest ones. Those activities are just as important as making sure they get all the food and sleep they need to thrive.

For more resources on how to communicate with your infant or toddler, check out tips here from Too Small to Fail.

Did reading to your children make a difference in their lives? Share your thoughts in the comments or tell Kelly Wallace on Twitter or CNN Living on Facebook.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
cnn, parents, parenting, logo
Get the latest kid-related buzz, confessions from imperfect parents and the download on the digital life of families here at CNN Parents.
updated 12:49 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
While most parents think about having a 'sex talk' with their children, not as many think about talking about technology, and that is a big mistake, experts say.
updated 8:53 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Parents are too ambivalent about their kids' "privacy" online, writes Dr. Jodi Gold--they're either spying fruitlessly or afraid to shape their child's online footprint.
updated 8:55 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Is there an unspoken rule in Hollywood that celebrity parents can only pick unusual names for their kids?
updated 5:50 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The premise is simple: You can eat one marshmallow now or, if you can wait, you get to eat two marshmallows later.
updated 7:43 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
While most children wait and hope Santa visits them at home on Christmas Eve, this year dozens of Denver-area children went directly to the big man's arctic home turf.
updated 5:25 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Almost 300 students who had been rejected by Johns Hopkins University received a joyous shock over the weekend when the prestigious Baltimore school said they'd been admitted after all -- but they hadn't.
updated 5:09 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
There is no way around the topic of nakedness in front of your children without getting personal and slightly uncomfortable.
updated 6:55 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Teens might be shedding their rebellious reputations: A survey says they're doing fewer drugs, drinking and smoking less. But E-cigarette use is up.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Carol Costello asks whether American culture sends a message to girls that it's not cool to study math and science fields.
updated 12:44 PM EST, Tue December 9, 2014
It's that special time of year, when Christmas and Hanukkah toy sellers try to put children in a box.
updated 7:59 PM EST, Tue December 9, 2014
Foodies and travelers: They're adventurous, they have discerning tastes and they love to discover a little-known jewel. Here's how to shop for them.
CNN iReport asked families with children with developmental and physical disabilities to share what their lives are like.
updated 7:00 AM EST, Mon December 8, 2014
Don't know what to get parents who are always on the move or kids who seem to have everything? This is just the list for you.
updated 11:45 PM EST, Tue December 9, 2014
You probably know LOL and OMG -- but what about IWSN, CU46 or IPN. It's all about KPC -- "keeping parents clueless."
updated 9:17 AM EST, Wed December 3, 2014
Out of control parties, sex and alcohol are some of the dangers kids might get into when left alone overnight. But some are mature enough to handle it. How do you know?
updated 11:58 AM EST, Tue December 2, 2014
Across the country and around the world, synthetic drugs are tearing holes in families.
updated 11:42 AM EST, Tue December 2, 2014
There's no place like home for the holidays -- and for one little girl in Cleveland, it's the only place.
Girl Scout cookie sales are entering the 21st century. For the first time ever, Girl Scout cookies will be sold online through a national platform called Digital Cookie. This breaks the organization's ban on e-sales of Thin Mints and Samoas.
updated 9:19 AM EST, Mon December 1, 2014
Author/actor B.J. Novak
B.J. Novak is catering to kids. His first children's book tops the New York Times list of best selling children's picture books. But here's the catch: it actually doesn't have any pictures.
updated 7:20 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
Hundreds of students walked out of their Oklahoma high school Monday to protest the school's response to the alleged bullying of three classmates who say they were raped by the same person.
updated 8:10 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
If it hasn't happened already, it likely will at some point: the moment you don't like one of your child's friends. What do you do?
updated 5:20 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. CNN's Michaela Pereira grew up in a family of five adopted girls in Canada and eventually reunited with her biological half-sister.
updated 12:35 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
If you think 'my teen would never sext,' you might be mistaken. Recent studies suggest it's more common than many parents might want to admit.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT