Early Prescriptions for Literacy

Early-Prescriptions-for-Literacy (1)

Parents typically schedule 12 well-baby visits with doctors before their child turns 3. It gives doctors 12 chances during these brief 15-minute visits to make a difference in a child’s health. Now, some experts want to add something new to doctor’s duties: helping their young patients with early literacy.

Doctors Recommend Books for Young Brains

Education Week details how the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is now advising doctors to encourage parents to talk, read, and sing to their infants at a child’s 2-month checkup. With support from groups like the nonprofit Too Small to Fail, doctors are trying to lend parents a helping hand by giving out a tote bag of educational goodies, a few more minutes of their time, and some hard facts about how quickly the brain and language develop — or fail to.

As 80% of a child’s brain develops by age 3, early reading time is essential. But families who cannot afford books, or who struggle to carve out time in busy careers — or don’t realize the value of reading to their children — may not be reading to their children each day. Children who miss out on early reading time face a dire future:

  • Children from families on public assistance hear as many as 30 million fewer words by the time they’re 4 years old than children from well-off families.
  • An insufficient vocabulary can slow children down so much that they’re not reading on grade level by the 3rd grade. Children who don’t hit that milestone are more likely to drop out of school.


The AAP recommends higher-quality parent-child interactions, in which parents ask children questions, for example, instead of just talking at them. What’s not recommended by the AAP is what may be more typically happening — cellphones and tablets are becoming parental stand-ins for building early parent-child relationships. 

For more, check out our Text Set on early childhood literacy. 
Any tips on boosting early reading? Tweet @newsela and let us know!