If you're a parent of a young child, the next time you and your child sit down to read a simple book like Goodnight Moon or Pat the Bunny, consider the value you are adding to your child's life.
Reading to young children helps improve school performance in reading and math. According to the National Education Association, young children who are read to frequently are more likely than their peers to count to 20, write their own names and actually read.
Studies show that children who read for fun perform better in school and achieve higher reading scores. Literacy is also linked to financial and professional success later in life.
However, many American children aren't getting early exposure to reading.
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that only 53 percent of children ages 3 to 5 are read to daily by a family member. Children in families with incomes below the poverty line are even less likely to be read to every day.
Illiteracy hinders productivity and health in adulthood. One study from the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that low literacy skills are associated with poor physical and mental health in adults.
According to a survey from the U.S. Department of Education, 14 percent of American adults cannot read and 21 percent of American adults read below the fifth grade reading level. Even more startling, 19 percent of high school graduates cannot read.
As a pediatrician at Kentucky Children's Hospital, I am especially interested in the link between poor health outcomes and low reading levels. A child's brain goes through its most critical period of development and growth during the first five years of life. Pediatricians are now championing early reading because we know it affects social and language skills.
Providers at UK HealthCare and across Kentucky are handing out books to children ages 6 months to 5 years at their Well Child Visits through the Reach Out and Read program.
Still, parents and caregivers have the most influence on a child when it comes to early reading. Parents should encourage daily reading time and make it a fun activity. Talk about pictures and let your child turn the pages of a book. Choose books about things your child can relate to, like visiting the doctor, petting a puppy or going to preschool. Ask your child questions about the story.
Parents and children are invited to A Cat's Tale Storybook Festival at the University of Kentucky Arboretum from 2- 5 p.m. on Oct. 17 and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 18. Children will engage in storybook-themed activities as well as book signings from local children's authors. The cost is $5 per child and all proceeds support child advocacy and justice efforts. For more information, visit Childadvocacytoday.org.
To learn more about Reach Out and Read, visit Reachoutandread.org.