Posts Tagged ‘reading’

Why reading aloud to your baby is so important

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

AA baby mom dad brother in NICU.jpg.resizedDid you know that reading to your baby helps promote language skills? Science has shown that reading to your baby helps build vocabulary, speech, and later reading comprehension, literacy and overall intelligence. Yet, less than half of children under the age of 5 are read to every day.

Reading aloud to your child is such an important aspect of language development that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers guidance on how to read to your child, including book suggestions for every age.

But what if your baby is in the NICU?

Even if your baby is in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), it is still incredibly valuable to read to him. The March of Dimes is partnering with Jack and Jill of America, Inc. to provide books to families who have a baby in a NICU. Parents are encouraged to choose books and read to their babies as often as they can.

In this resource, the AAP explains “Why it is never too early to read with your baby.” They say: “When parents talk, read, and sing with their babies and toddlers, connections are formed in their young brains. These connections build language, literacy, and social–emotional skills at an important time in a young child’s development. These activities strengthen the bond between parent and child.”

Why start reading today?

Today is World Read Aloud Day, a perfect time to start a new routine of reading to your child.

If you’re not sure what to read, you can ask your local librarian in the children’s room. You can also acquire books for a home library at second hand stores or even recycling stations. The “dump” in the town where I raised my kids has a book shed where you can drop off or pick up used books for free. And don’t forget, garage or yard sales are great places to get books for nickels. Having a mini-library at home has been shown to help children get off on the right academic foot.

But perhaps the best reason to read to your child is because it brings you together. The snuggles and cuddles, laughter and silliness that may result from reading a wonderful book, brings happiness to both parent and child.

Whether it is in the NICU or at home, reading aloud to your child is one of the most powerful things you will ever do. So grab a book, snuggle up, and enjoy!


Vocabulary at age 2 may predict kindergarten success

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

parents reading to toddlerThe size of a child’s vocabulary at age two may predict how well he will do in kindergarten, according to a new study. The larger the oral vocabulary, the better prepared he will be for school.

The study looked at 8,500 children in the United States. The researchers found that:

  • preemies or babies with a very low birth weight, and babies whose mothers had health issues had smaller vocabularies.
  • children with parents who frequently interacted with their children and read to them on a regular basis had larger vocabularies.
  • girls tended to have a larger vocabulary than boys.
  • children from higher socioeconomic homes had larger vocabularies.
  • children with larger vocabularies at 24 months of age did better in reading and math and had fewer behavioral problems.

The researchers believe that interventions should be started early enough so that children who are at risk due to medical/health problems or socioeconomic disadvantages, have the time to develop and catch up. Interventions need to be targeted especially to toddlers who are living in disadvantaged homes.

Keep in mind that no two children develop exactly alike. Some are early bloomers while others are later bloomers. And one study cannot predict an individual child’s development.

What can you do?

The single most effective way to help your baby expand his vocabulary is to read to him. Start when your baby is born, and read every day. Reading aloud helps promote language skills – vocabulary, speech and later on, reading comprehension. See this post to learn just how important reading is for your baby and to learn where to get books. See the AAP’s article for tips on how to make it fun. And remember, the best parts about reading to your little one are the snuggles and cuddles that go along with it.

If your baby is showing signs of a developmental delay, speak with his health care provider, or contact your Early Intervention Program and ask for a free screening. If your child qualifies, he may receive personal, targeted intervention (such as speech therapy) to help him catch up.

Don’t delay with delays!

Have questions? Text or email them to

The study appeared in the journal Child Development.

Learn how to help your child in our Delays and Disabilities series.

Research shows a consistent bedtime routine helps children

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

parents reading to child“Dinner, bath, books, bed.” That was my mantra when my kids were little. They knew the routine once I started getting dinner ready. The moment the dishes were in the dishwasher I would bring them straight upstairs to get ready for bath time, and to pick out a book. Once the story was read, it was time to hop into bed.

It helped ME to keep them in this routine. (After all, a mom needs to be off-duty, too!) And now, new research has shown that it helps KIDS to have a consistent bedtime routine, as well.

In a multinational study, mothers of 10,085 children (from infants to age 5) in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, United Kingdom and the United States were surveyed about their children’s sleep habits – both daytime naps and nighttime. They completed a questionnaire which was then analyzed by the researchers.

The results?

The children who had a consistent bedtime routine slept better, longer, and woke up less during the night. They also fell asleep sooner than those who did not have a consistent routine.

Parents reported fewer behavior problems the next day in the kids that had a consistent bedtime routine. (I know that if I have not had a decent night’s sleep, I can be grouchy and irritable the next day. It seems reasonable that the same would be true for our kids.)

It is interesting that the results were consistent across many different countries. Kids are kids, no matter where they live. They all need good, solid, restorative sleep. These data suggest that a bedtime routine can be key in helping your child sleep well every night.

More good news

It is never too late to establish a routine. Also, this study suggests that the younger your child is when you start, and the more consistent you are with keeping up with the routine, the better the outcome will be. Plus, reading to your child has many known benefits for language development.

Do you have a bedtime routine for your child? How is it working?

Have questions? Send them to

See other topics on how to help your child, here.



It’s good – no, it’s GREAT – to read to your baby

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

reading programRead to your baby- it’s fun for both of you. And now the AAP says it is important for your baby’s language and brain development, too. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Someone once asked me how old my children were when I started reading to them. Honestly, it was not like I flipped a switch and then pulled out a book. I read to them as soon as they could open their eyes. I remember my son being on my lap and barely able to hold his head up as I read him a soft “baby book” with huge, colorful shapes and pictures. He sat there enthralled, gazing at the colors with wide eyes. Sometimes he would lunge forward to touch the colors. He was barely three months old.

When I gave birth to my daughter two years later, I would sit on my large blue chair with my son on one leg and my daughter nestled on my arm on my other leg. My son would turn the pages and I would read to both of them. I treasured our special time together, and my kids absolutely loved it. Even though my kids are in their twenties now, I still have the “reading chair” and just sitting in it evokes the sweetest of memories for me. But, perhaps the best part of this bonding ritual was that both my children grew to love reading at a very early age.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is actively urging pediatricians to tell parents to read to their child from infancy. Reading aloud helps to promote language skills – vocabulary, speech, and later reading comprehension, literacy and overall intelligence. The AAP suggests that pediatricians extol the virtues of reading to children at each “well child” visit. Reading to your child is right up there with proper nutrition and vaccinations. Yup – according to science, reading aloud to kids is good for them.

Where to get books

You don’t need to own a large library to read to your child. Kids love repetition and will ask to hear the same story over and over again. (How many times did I read Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman?!!!). But if you just can’t pick up that same book again, head to your local library where the children’s section is sure to bring out your inner child. As your baby gets older, make reading interactive – have him point to the truck when you say the word. Then have him repeat the word or say it with you. Watch as his vocabulary begins to grow. You can practically “see” the connections being made.

Another place to acquire books for a home library is at second hand stores or even recycling stations. The “dump” in the town where I raised my kids has a book shed where you can drop off or pick up used books for free. And don’t forget, garage or yard sales are great places to get books for nickels. Having a mini-library at home has been shown to help children get off on the right academic foot.

When your little one is a toddler, check out library story hours for parents or caregivers and children. It may soon become the highlight of your week.

Bottom line

It is never too early to start reading to your baby or too late to start reading to your child. Not only will reading aloud help to boost language skills from an early age, but it will promote bonding and closeness between you and your child. Who knows what world a book may open up to you and your baby?

So, grab a book, snuggle up and start reading. You’ll never regret it.


Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. Email


There’s an app for that

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

boy using computerThere has been a lot of response to my blog posts that focus on learning disabilities. It seems that lots of parents of preemies are struggling with how to help their child who is learning to read or write. I came across this list of apps, recommended by parents, that I thought I’d share. These apps help kids with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia in particular. Check it out at NCLD, and let me know if you can add any to the list.

Parents helping parents is key to helping our kids.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to

What is dyslexia?

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

ABC'sDyslexia is perhaps the most commonly known learning disability. Usually people think of dyslexia as reversing letters (d for a b) or having trouble learning to read. But dyslexia is much more complex than just switching letters or not catching on with reading.

Dyslexia is a language based learning disability, meaning it involves all aspects of acquiring and processing language. Learning to read is one aspect of processing language. It involves recognizing letters, breaking down sounds and learning how to put them together to form words and sentences. Then, once an individual can identify words, there is the more complex task of understanding the meaning of those words and sentences. Other forms of processing language include understanding the spoken word, understanding abstract meanings or nuances (such as jokes), being able to organize your thoughts to write clearly and fluently, spelling correctly and even speaking easily.

As with other learning disabilities, dyslexia is not a sign of laziness or low intelligence. An LD person thinks and processes information differently than a non-LD person. Dyslexia is a neurological (brain) disorder that occurs in people of all economic and ethnic backgrounds.  It also occurs in individuals who are exceedingly talented in a particular area. For example, there are many people with dyslexia who are gifted in areas that are not language based, such as sports, computer science, math, acting or art. Countless extraordinary and famous people have dyslexia.

Dyslexia does not go away. There is no pill to cure it. It stays with a person throughout life. However, it can be successfully managed through identification and treatment. If you think that your child is struggling with learning to talk, understanding language, learning to read or with schoolwork, do not hesitate to seek help. The sooner your child gets help, the sooner she can start catching up. And, it is important to get help as soon as possible so that her confidence and self-esteem are not damaged.

To learn if your child has dyslexia or any other kind of learning disability, ask that your child be evaluated through the Early Intervention system (birth up to age 3) or through your local school district (age 3 and older).

What treatment helps dyslexia?

If your child is diagnosed with dyslexia through a formal evaluation, then she will probably qualify for special education services. These services will be geared to address your child’s unique disability. For example, if your child is having trouble decoding words, the school will target an intervention to address this difficulty. If your child is having difficulty with writing, the intervention will focus on writing. Usually the intervention involves help in more than one area (reading, writing, comprehension).

An individual learns in a variety of ways – through hearing, seeing, touching or feeling, or using her body. A child with dyslexia usually learns more easily through materials that are provided in digital or auditory modes. Acquiring information through different paths helps your child to learn and remember material.

In addition to different types of teaching methods, there are modifications and accommodations that can be put in place in your child’s classroom to help her learn. For example, your child may receive extra time on tests, books on tape, or other support. With appropriate treatment, kids with dyslexia can learn to read and write well. And, as I indicated in my blog post on learning disabilities, scores of famous and successful people have dyslexia.

Where can you find support and more info?

There are several organizations that provide support and information about dyslexia and other learning disabilities. I highly recommend visiting NCLD  where you can view or download The Dyslexia Toolkit. This step-by-step guide will help you to identify and treat dyslexia at any age, and provides tips for living and learning with dyslexia.

When my daughter was first diagnosed with LD, I attended an info session for parents. During the session, the class was given materials that were intended to show us what it feels like to be in our children’s shoes. It was hard knowing that our children were suffering in ways we had not imagined. But, it also made us better parents – empathetic parents. Once we got this message, advocating for our kids became a clearer mission.

Bottom line

Dyslexia is a lifelong condition but it need not define your child. If you suspect language challenges in your child, request that your child be tested. Then, work with your school system to get her the appropriate help she needs to enable her to reach her potential.

Have questions? Send them to

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Read to your baby in the NICU

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

preemieOur Director of NICU Family Support shares a story about the power of reading to your baby, even if he is in a neonatal intensive care unit.

While working in the NICU, I had the privilege of knowing one particular family whose baby was born at twenty-eight weeks gestation.  This little boy was going through a particularly vulnerable and fragile time and staff had requested that handling be kept to a minimum.  Until he stabilized, his anxious parents were asked not to hold him.  Despite this distressing limitation, the baby’s father, an intense and intellectual man, found his own way to get close to his beloved son.  Early each morning before his job, this father would come in and tuck himself behind his growing son’s incubator.  And in deep, hushed tones, staff and families would hear this dad reading “The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin” to his baby boy through the incubator’s porthole window.

As staff, we began to depend on this father’s soothing voice of care in the early mornings.  Families approached me and asked me if I had books for them to read to their children.  I had an idea.  Inspired by this very father, I created the Bedside Reading Program, a rolling cart of children’s books in various languages, so that every family could read to their babies at the bedside.  It would be a way to bond, to parent and to get close despite all the barriers of the NICU.  The NICU became a library, where every parent was reading to his or her baby.

Recently I was able to get together with the family who inspired this program.  And today that little boy is eight years old and is reading to his father.

Now, through a generous in-kind sponsorship by Scholastic, Inc., we have a March of Dimes Bedside Reading Program in sixty-one of our March of Dimes NICU Family Support sites nationwide, at least one per state, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.  In addition, enough books have been donated to provide Sibling Lending Libraries in the NICU and a book gift to every family at the end of their baby’s hospitalization.

If you would like to donate to the Bedside Reading Program or get involved with NICU Family Support in your state, please contact your local chapter of the March of Dimes. No matter how old your baby is, read to him often to help him develop. Reading is one of the most important things you can do with your child.

TV and toddlers

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

20038704_thbIt may be tempting to put your infant or toddler in front of the television, especially to watch shows created just for children under age two. But the American Academy of Pediatrics says: Don’t do it! These early years are crucial in a child’s development. The Academy is concerned about the impact of television programming intended for children younger than age two and how it could affect your child’s development. Pediatricians strongly oppose targeted programming, especially when it’s used to market toys, games, dolls, unhealthy food and other products to toddlers. Any positive effect of television on infants and toddlers is still open to question, but the benefits of parent-child interactions are proven. Under age two, talking, singing, reading, listening to music or playing are far more important to a child’s development than any TV show. For more information on your child’s health, visit