This Monday marked Dr. Seuss’s birthday, which is now also celebrated as Read Across America Day. Why do we celebrate this day? Because the research is undeniable, one of the best ways to enhance a child’s development is through the gift of reading.

My mom loves to read. She always has, and as an educator, she has passed that love for reading down to me and hundreds of her students as well. When my siblings and I were little, my mom would read to us throughout the day, and my dad would read us Bible stories before bed at night. Even as a toddler I figured out that the most effective strategy for staying up later could be found in one simple question, “Daddy, can you please read us more Bible stories?” (How does a parent say no to that? My strategy was probably 10% about Jesus and 90% about extending my bedtime, but despite my motivation, it worked people. It worked!)  One particular summer, our house was under major construction while we were still living in it. We camped out in a corner of the living room for months, and what should have been a miserable experience became something I remember fondly. My mother read us the entire Chronicles of Naria series that summer. We were just captivated, swept up and out of the Arizona heat and into a fantastical adventure. That is still my favorite book series to this day. Parents reading to their children is undoubtedly a very personal and nurturing experience that creates life-long memories.

And while no one disagrees with the fact that reading is good for children, we are facing a major literacy problem. Children should be read to every day, but this is what’s really happening in America:

  • Only 48% of young children in this country are read to each day.
  • More than 1 out of 3 American children start kindergarten WITHOUT the language skills they need to learn how to read.
  • Reading proficiency by the third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success.

Reading to young children matters and makes a lifelong impact! As I evaluate young children’s development in the office every day, I can’t even begin to describe the incredible difference between young children that are read to and young children that are not. Our office proudly participates in a national program called Reach Out And Read, and there’s a good chance your child’s pediatric office does too. This program works with medical providers to distribute over 6.5 million books annually to children at well-visits with the goal of promoting early literacy and school readiness. I just love the look on little children’s faces when I give them their own book to take home!

Remember, language, cognitive, and social-emotional milestones are all effected by reading to children starting at a young age. So here are 5 simple tips that parents should follow when it comes to reading:

  1. Read to your child every day. Even 15 minutes makes a huge impact!
  2. Start reading to your child as soon as possible. Research shows that the more words parents use when speaking to an 8-month-old infant, the greater the size of their child’s vocabulary at age 3. You can’t start reading to your infant too soon!
  3. Make reading a part of your daily routine. Children love to form habits! Reading to children before bedtime is one way to do this. It is a great opportunity to have bonding time while keeping your child’s attention.
  4. Go to the library regularly! Reading with your children is free, it just costs your time.
  5. Book reading apps and TV shows are NOT a replacement for parents reading to their child. While some of these apps and programs can be a wonderful addition, don’t under-estimate the power of your own voice! It is an irreplaceable interaction.

Happy reading! While you might feel like you have read “Goodnight Moon” to your toddler two million times, keep doing it! Reading to your children does them a world of good! Also, check out this awesome infographic from the Read Aloud Campaign! I love this visual!

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Question: What is or was your child’s favorite book? Tell me in the comments!