In addition to the necessity of feeding a baby’s body, the idea of feeding its mind is a concept that is the focus of Read Aloud 15 MINUTES.
From infancy to toddler and older, the national non-profit organization (www.readaloud.org) is working to make reading aloud every day for at least 15 minutes the new standard in child care. The organization cites reading aloud as the single most important thing a parent or caregiver can do to improve a child’s readiness to read and listen.
Lincoln City Libraries joined the effort a year ago, supporting and promoting the idea. According to Vicki Wood, LCL Youth Services Supervisor, this August city libraries will kick off a five-year communitywide Read Aloud campaign, participating in an Early Literacy Partnership that includes Head Start, City/County Health Departments, People’s Health Center, Lincoln Public Schools and Community Centers.
The campaign’s goal is to connect with people and organizations who work directly with Lincoln families and what they need to do to get families to utilize the libraries’ facilities so that all levels of Lincoln’s population have the opportunity to read to their children.
Reading to children has benefits which are multi-fold. Children will hear words and variations in vocal tones that they might not ordinarily hear. Wood said that brain scans have shown brain development when children are read to -- they pay more attention when parents speak and the verbal stimulation leads to brain development.
However there is also the bonding and closeness between child and parent that develops when reading is involved.
Dr. Michael Applegate, from Children First Pediatrics, said that he encourages reading to children from a young age. “Infants can learn facial expressions and vocal cadence when they are read to, with language exploding for children ages 2 to 3.”
He said that all of the doctors at Children First Pediatrics assess the language skills at patients’ routine physical exams and if there seems to be an issue of falling behind, they have an in-depth discussion with the parents.
Applegate suggested that parents hold infants under 15 months of age, close enough so they can see the expressions on the parents’ face.
In fact, Applegate doesn’t limit the communication with infants just to the reading of books. “Whether you are singing a song, telling a story or reading a book, the content is not so important to the infant, but the parental connection.”
That familial connection is the best place for children to develop a vocabulary, rather than hearing things on television or from others.
But there is a caution according to Applegate – children are able to pick up on the tension and volume in a voice, possibly causing them stress or discomfort.
Wood and Applegate both acknowledge that finding time every day to read to a child could be difficult.
“There are lots of things to fit into a day,” Wood said.
She suggested to plan ahead and work it into one’s schedule, maybe after a meal or first thing in the morning. She also advised that if one has a book or two in the diaper bag that dead time – such a time waiting in a doctor’s office – could be used for reading.
What Applegate urged is that the parent not rush though a story, just to finish it.
He also said that if a child is old enough to choose a book to read, the parent should let them, but still expose them to new material so that they don’t always pick the same book.
Which transitions smoothly into Wood’s explanation that Lincoln libraries are a great free resource for families.
“We have large board books for the young, picture books for toddlers and more.” For older children who may be obsessed with trains or dinosaurs and such, she suggested that parents consider reading them non-fiction books on those subjects.
“Our librarians can check the libraries resources and recommend books for any age range,” she said.
The concept of reading to young people and its importance to their development is supported by Applegate, but he also comments that any singular study should not be accepted as unmitigated truth.
Wood said that the elements that children can learn by being read to can be transported to everyday life as a teaching tool for the older child. “If you are at the grocery, the parent can point to an apple and say to the child, ‘See the apple. Is it red or green?’”
She also has a suggestion for presents when a child is born or has a birthday. Instead of giving toys as a gift, instead give a book.
It’s something that can be read aloud to them.