You may think it’s crazy to read to a newborn, but pediatric associations in Canada and the United States want doctors to prescribe it to parents when they come in for regular check-ups and vaccinations.. Babies are born ready to absorb language, and already recognize their mothers’ voices. Early reading prepares them for school, sets them up for early success and even better health, say the doctors, and it creates a healthy bond between them and their parents. So the association has developed guidelines to help doctors encourage the activity.Listen
‘Read, speak and sing to baby daily’
“An excellent way to fill your baby’s world with words is to surround them with books that parents can look at together with their child every day,” says Dr. Alyson Shaw, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Ottawa. In fact, she recommends parents read, speak and sing to their babies every day.
No feedback? Don’t worry
“I also like to forewarn parents of newborns not to be alarmed if they don’t feel like they’re getting a lot of feedback from their babies just because of their young, young age,” says Shaw. “But when you hold an infant in your arms and look at a book with them, that baby, even from birth, is able to focus on their parent’s face. They can appreciate their facial expression. We know that babies, even before they’re born, are able to recognize their mother’s speech pattern. So babies are benefitting right from day one when you have that special time with them.”
Not reading can leave children behind
Many Canadian parents do read to their children, but generally not as early as Shaw and other doctors recommend. And families from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to. “That’s sad because it sets those children (who have not been read to) up for starting school already significantly behind their peers.”
Shaw has books in her office which she sometimes gives to families and children love to read over and over again.
‘First books are meant to be devoured’
Not to worry if babies chew on the books, she says. “The first books are meant to be loved and devoured. That’s why we recommend either cloth books or board books that are meant to be handled by little hands and chewed on and that can be wiped down easily if they get messy. That’s what loving your first book is about.”