A Letter From a Pediatrician
You are raising a beautiful, inquisitive young learner, and you are doing great.
Yes, everyday your child is learning from you – when you talk to them, play with them, sing to them and certainly when you tell stories or read with them. Your voice is your most powerful tool in helping your child grow, and you are making such a great choice by bringing books into your home to share with your child.
As a pediatrician here in Philadelphia and Associate Medical Director of Reach Out and Read Greater Philadelphia, I love talking with families about the power of their voice – their voice that builds strong bonds with their child and fosters early literacy and a love of learning.
The best thing a family can do to encourage learning is to tell stories or read aloud together, every day, even if only for a few minutes.
- Start reading and story telling early and keep it going! Even the newborn brain grows strong with the power of your voice.
- When reading a book, finish maybe one page or even ten pages, one book or 5 books (wow!). Reading matters, no matter how much, even if only for just a few minutes.
- Read the words on the page, or don’t – talk about the pictures or make up a story – all that matters is the conversation between you and your child.
- Don’t have a book on hand? – it’s ok! Dive into your imagination or tell stories from your lives.
- Let your child pick the book, and you pick one too – reading is a time for both of you to be together and slow down the day.
- Forgive yourself everyday – reading looks different at every age.
- Infants may be in the mood to snuggle, or not. Follow their lead – let them turn the pages and even bring the book to their mouths. When the baby turns away or gets fussy, take their cue and try again later.
- Toddlers may want to take charge – here’s where asking questions is key. What sound does that animal make? What color is that flower? Make it active; moving and shaking with the book (how does that bunny hop?!?) will keep your toddler engaged longer.
- Preschool kiddos learn from the sounds of words; rhyming helps emerging readers learn the difference between the 42 sounds used in the English language. Look at letters and sounds together and let your preschooler show you how much they’ve learned!
At this point, if you have been reading at least 5 minutes a day with your child from infancy, you have provided them over 100 hours of learning! Let these everyday moments shine; you’ve got this!
Danielle Erkoboni, MD Associate Medical Director, Reach Out and Read Greater Philadelphia