The No. 1 Thing Parents Should Do Daily

Of course, you're going to hug and kiss your children every day and tell them you love them.

But in addition to that, you should read to them every day--beginning in infancy.

That's the word from the venerable American Academy of Pediatrics, which maintains that daily time spent with Curious George, the Berenstain Bears or Dr. Seuss is the best way to prepare kids for school and for life.

Bonus: Reading together helps strengthen family ties.

Using a medical metaphor, AAP spokeswoman Dr. Pamela High said daily reading will help parents "immunize their children against illiteracy."

And it doesn't stop with parents. In an even bolder step, the association recommended that literacy promotion be part of residency training for any medical student entering pediatrics.

"This is the first time the AAP has called out literacy promotion as being an essential component of primary care pediatric practice," High said. "Fewer than half of children are being read to every day by their families, and that number hasn't really changed since 2003. It's a public health message to parents of all income groups that this early shared reading is both fun and rewarding."

Reading "Tikki Tikki Tembo," "Anna Banana" or "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" isn't just entertainment. It also helps your child learn essential language skills. More than one-third of American children begin kindergarten--which is the year kids are taught to read--without the language skills they need to learn how to read. And that's a disadvantage that can put them permanently behind their peers who have those all-important language skills.

Research has long shown that children who were read to in their early years are the most literate later. And, yes, even infants benefit as they hear spoken words and sounds that will form the basis of future language and literacy development. Children who are deprived of this hear fewer words and so learn fewer words.

Here's a stunning fact: Reading proficiency by the third grade is THE most important predictor of whether children will graduate from high school and be successful in their careers.

Here's a stunning problem: About two-thirds of children in the United States and about 80 percent of those below the poverty threshold fail to develop reading proficiency by the end of the third grade.

The policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics has been published in the journal Pediatrics.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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