Parents should read aloud to infants every day, pediatricians say

Updated 8:48 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014

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

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.