Doctors: read to babies early, often - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Doctors: read to babies early, often

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ATLANTA, Ga. -

The country’s largest pediatricians group is telling parents to get reading. The American Academy of Pediatrics says reading should be an everyday ritual, beginning when your child is just a baby.

Jo Jo and Leah Cadrey say no one had to tell their to read to their daughter, Avery. Their parents had read to them, so they were carrying on a family tradition. Avery’s now two, and they started reading to her when she was just three months old, as a way to tuck her in at night.

Jo Jo, a high school math teacher at the Paedeia School, says reading became part of Avery’s nap and bedtime routine, “So it was part of her calming down, and getting ready to go to bed and over that time she's really taken to it."

By about six months of age, Avery was turning the pages. A few months after that, she started repeating words.

Pretty soon, she was remembering each story. Leah Cadrey says, “Guilty parents, if we skipped a page in a book, on our fifth book, she would turn the page back, because she knew, she was, "I knew that story is a little bit longer. I know there's a part that we missed."

Childhood health experts say if you want children to thrive, start reading to them to them early - and often, even when it seems like they're too young to get it. Because they do get it.

By the time most kids hit one, they've already learned all the sounds they need to speak their native language.

And Emory School of Nursing's neonatal nurse practitioner Ashley Darcy-Mahoney says it's not just about reading - it's about engaging the child.

Darcy-Mahoney says, “So, active engagement is sort of exactly what it sounds like, it making sure that when you're speaking to a child, you speak in a way the child responds. We call that ‘Parentese.’"

For younger children, you could read in a higher-pitch or a sing-song tone. For older toddlers, get down on the floor, find what they like, and read about that. Darcy-Mahoney says, “When we talk about reading books, you wouldn't necessarily read a child Shakespeare and expect them to engage, you want to engage them at the level where they are."

So, how do you know if your child is listening? Darcy-Mahoney says, “Generally at six months, you can expect a child to at least be looking at a book with you, engaging in those pictures. And one, they might be flipping the pages.”

Experts recommend reading to your child for a few minutes, two or three times a day, preferably when your child is relaxed but alert. You don’t have to stick to the text, you can improvise. And if your baby grabs the book, tries to chew it, or drops it on the floor – that’s normal. Just pick up the book and keep going!

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