Pediatrician On Reading: 'If We Wait Until Kids Are In School, It’s Too Late'

by Mike Julianelle
Image via Shutterstock

Pediatrician explains that reading to your infant is vital to their development

Reading is one of the building blocks of education, and most parents read to their children long before they’re able to do it for themselves. But one pediatrician is stressing how important it is to start reading to kids as young as possible.

As part of Oprah’s OWN network’s “The Hero Effect” series, pediatrician Dr. Jill Alexander explains that reading to your children at an early age can impact their entire future.

“If they’re not ready in kindergarten to start learning, they’re not going to be at grade-level by the time they’re in third grade. And if you’re not reading at grade-level in third grade, you get to fourth then fifth and we start having school truancy and dropping out of school,” Alexander says.

Which makes it essential for parents to read to their kids almost as soon as they’re born.

“What I’d really like is to have a book to give at every well check-up for kids to encourage reading and get parents to start reading with their kids when they’re young,” says Alexander.

Obviously, reading to your child is a fun, bonding experience and a stereotypical part of being a parent. According to Alexander, it goes well beyond simply sharing your favorite stories with your kids.

“We know that 90 percent of brain development happens before a child is 5,” she says. “If we wait until kids are in school, it’s too late.”

I love reading to my kids, and my wife and I have been doing it from the get-go for both our kids. But there are definitely times – at the end of a long day, when our six-year-old is being a pain in the ass – when ditching the bedtime story is an easy way to shorten the often interminable bedtime process.

Thanks to this pediatrician, I know that if my son drops out of high school, it will be because I wanted to skip “The Sorcerer’s Stone” and get back to my beer.

I’m sure there’s a strong correlation between illiteracy and dropping out of school, but I don’t know that reading to your kid is a cure-all. It surely helps them appreciate books and jumpstarts the process, but many parents – busy single parents, parents that work multiple jobs – might not be able to get it done every night. I don’t think we should terrify them with premonitions of their children’s failures.

Then again, maybe fear is necessary. I think for our next book, I’ll introduce my son to Pennywise…