The Importance of Reading to Your Children

I attended a grand rounds talk today given by Dr John Hutton, the Director of the Reading and Literacy Discovery Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.  He has been an avid reader his whole life and has translated that into a career as an author and publisher of children’s books, an owner of a book store and publishing company, and as a literacy scientist and researcher. John modeled what we know to be helpful:  read to your child early and often.
Reading is a fundamental skill that is acquired over years of development, with a goal of reading independently by third grade.  Dr. Hutton’s research shows that we should still be reading old fashioned physical books to our children, for at least fifteen minutes every day.  Studies with functional MRI have demonstrated the complex brain networks involved in reading.  When compared to using just an audiobook or just a video, children in the 3 to 5 year-old range showed the most connections made were with reading and interacting with a parent. In fact, exposure to screen -based media decreases these connections.
So should we be worried?   The short answer is YES! Emerging data shows that the more screen time our kids engage in, the more difficulty they have with reading social cues, making emotional connections, and as a result they have a higher risk of developing anxiety and ADHD.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to 2 hours or less, and to not start it until 18 to 24 months of age.  The reality is we have our televisions on and our tablets, phones, or computers readily available from the day we bring our babies home from the hospital.  In fact, Dr. Hutton’s research shows that babies as young as 2 months old have more exposure to screens than to books.
What about our educational system? Schools are increasingly utilizing technology. It is a ubiquitous part of our society.  But educators realize the importance of unplugging, and a lot of schools are adding mindfulness and movement to the school day.  On a related note, there has been research comparing how well we retain information comparing typing notes to writing them on paper.  The group that wrote their notes had higher retention as compared to groups who typed notes.
Dr. Hutton’s overall message is that we need to think of literacy as another developmental milestone, separate from the traditional domains of gross motor, fine motor, speech and social-emotional.  He is developing methods to inquire and measure a child’s progress in their literacy journey.  In the coming years, pediatricians will ask more about literacy and it is a good thing that they will!
Posted: 2/14/2019 7:56:57 AM | with 0 comments