Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Parents should read aloud to infants every day, pediatricians say

By Kelly Wallace, CNN
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 0048 GMT (0848 HKT)
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
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1957 GMT (0357 HKT)
The situation in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager, throws America's problem with talking about race into sharp relief.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 0225 GMT (1025 HKT)
Mo'ne Davis is the first girl to throw a shutout in the Little League World Series. She's an inspiration, but will she change the face of the sport?
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0036 GMT (0836 HKT)
There is a reason why when people post pictures of themselves during their middle school years on Facebook for "Throw Back Thursday," we all stop and take notice.
It could cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars to raise your child -- and that's not even including college costs, according to new government estimates.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 0409 GMT (1209 HKT)
From parent to son, uncle to nephew, there's a raw, private conversation being revived in America in the wake of violence in Ferguson, Missouri.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Children sometimes get left out of our conversations about mental illness. The truth is, they suffer too.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 2114 GMT (0514 HKT)
CNN's Kat Kinsman says that talking freely about personal mental health and suicidal thoughts can help others.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1726 GMT (0126 HKT)
morning person
Easy tips on how to improve everything from your dinner order to the song in your head to your career.
August 7, 2014 -- Updated 1733 GMT (0133 HKT)
The case of an Arizona mom who left her kids in a car during a job interview highlights the fluid line between bad parenting and criminal behavior.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
A children's book about gun rights has benefited from an unexpected boost in sales after it became the subject of a mocking segment on a talk show.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Some campers and counselors keep the campfire flames burning with summer flings that become lifetime commitments.
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 1143 GMT (1943 HKT)
After letting her 7-year-old son walk from their home to a park to play, a Florida mother faces up to five years in jail for child neglect.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1536 GMT (2336 HKT)
Lindsey Rogers-Seitz, who lost her son in a hot car, hopes mandatory technology in cars and car seats will stop child death from heatstroke in cars.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Not to mention your jeans, bras and pillows? Here's a definitive guide to keeping all your quarters clean.
Imagination Playgrounds have snaking tunnels, platforms and springy mats just like any other playground. But they're different in one fundamental way -- they're built by kids.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Grammy Award-winning singer Sarah McLachlan, a 46-year-old divorced mom of two girls, talks about parenting, sex and whether women can have it all.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1154 GMT (1954 HKT)
Researchers say physical punishment actually alters the brain.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 2041 GMT (0441 HKT)
The case of a South Carolina mother arrested for allegedly leaving her 9-year-old daughter at a park while she was working sparks debate over how young is too young to leave a child alone.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1515 GMT (2315 HKT)
CNN's Kelly Wallace reveals 5 common parenting mistakes that many parents admit to making.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Is it a bad idea for parents to let kids drink underage at home, or does an early sip make drinking less taboo? Studies are divided on the subject, which is a tough nut for parents to crack.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cellphones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 1840 GMT (0240 HKT)
Professional photographer Timothy Archibald uses his camera to connect with his autistic son.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 1316 GMT (2116 HKT)
Do you wish you could outsource the summer cooking, cleaning, and camp planning associated with kids? Here are 5 ways to do it -- and why you shouldn't feel guilty about it.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 1852 GMT (0252 HKT)
The death of a Georgia toddler in a hot car raises the question: should government or automakers get involved to prevent accidental deaths from heatstroke inside a car?
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1504 GMT (2304 HKT)
It's not just the 'baby blues.' Postpartum depression affects about 15% of new mothers. Here's what one 'warrior woman' is doing to fight it.
Post your personal essays and original photos, and tell us how it really is.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
What does it mean to run "like a girl"? A new viral video points out that the answer changes depending on whom you ask.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 2122 GMT (0522 HKT)
CNN reporter Moni Basu lived in the U.S. nearly 30 years before becoming a citizen. Here's what it meant to pledge her allegiance.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 2107 GMT (0507 HKT)
Her daughter was cut from the team. Her son didn't get into that coveted honors class. It was hard but also helpful. Here's how one mom learned to find lessons in failure.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1556 GMT (2356 HKT)
The presence of transgender and gender nonconforming youth at NYC Pride March is latest effort to increase visibility of the transgender community.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 2227 GMT (0627 HKT)
A new ad by the hair care company Pantene asks why women are always apologizing and raises the question of whether women say "sorry" more often than men.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 0048 GMT (0848 HKT)
The American Academy of Pediatrics announced new guidelines this week urging doctors to tell parents to read to their infants and toddlers.
June 28, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
David Martinez grew up thinking he was just an average American kid. When he learned he was undocumented immigrant, it made him re-examine his beliefs about Mexican identity.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1747 GMT (0147 HKT)
A new survey says that working fathers, like working mothers, find it hard to balance work and family.
June 20, 2014 -- Updated 1029 GMT (1829 HKT)
Jenny Mollen has no issue tweeting her breastfeeding. The new author talks motherhood and having a (more) famous husband
June 19, 2014 -- Updated 2120 GMT (0520 HKT)
Experts say "mean girl" behavior begins as young as elementary school. Here's how to prevent raising a mean girl.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 2240 GMT (0640 HKT)
While dads today don't get the same respect and attention as moms, and are often depicted as clueless, they've come a long way, baby.
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.
ADVERTISEMENT