By Dena Pepple, R.N. for Lee’s Summit Physicians Group.
“YOU CAN FIND MAGIC WHEREVER YOU LOOK. SIT BACK AND RELAX, ALL YOU NEED IS A BOOK.” – DR. SEUSS
Did you know that Read Across America is celebrated on March 2nd? Who better to remind us of the importance of reading than Dr. Seuss? And Dr. Seuss’ birthday is also March 2nd!
Dr. Seuss published over 60 children’s books, many of which are in my home library. His books are indeed magical with fun rhymes (Hop on Pop), made up names (The Lorax), faraway places (Whoville in How the Grinch Stole Christmas), and lessons learned (Horton Hears a Who).
What is also magical and bears repeating is how important early literacy (children reading and being read to) is for our children’s learning, development and success.
“I LIKE NONSENSE. IT WAKES UP THE BRAIN.” – DR. SEUSS
Literacy practice and success starts well before we can actually read. Communication is at the heart of literacy and it starts with our first words, stories, and songs to our newborns. Dr. Seuss may have been joking when he mentioned waking up the brain, but he was spot on. The developing brain of a baby triples in the first year of life. At age three, their brain is twice as active as an adult brain and stays that way for the first ten years of life.
That baby talk or “nonsense” conversation we have with our newborns does indeed help “wake up” our brain cells. As we continue that communication with books and reading, our child’s early literacy is given a boost or jump start. Numerous studies agree that the early introduction of books and reading increases language skills, vocabularies, and future educational success.
“BE AWESOME. BE A BOOK NUT.” – DR. SEUSS
Here’s my list about why books are awesome:
- Books broaden your horizons. Your children can travel backward or forward in time, all over the world or out of this world, into make-believe or true stories, and not leave your home.
- Books teach values, kindness and empathy. As your children get to know the characters in the book, they learn how to treat others and who the good and bad guys are.
- Reading books improves test scores and language comprehension. Children who are read to regularly have higher cognitive skills and are twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading than their peers who haven’t been read to.
- Reading teaches focus. Being able to focus or stay on task is an important part of our children’s growth. With books, our children have to think about the characters, setting and action as well as previous and present story line.
- Reading is great for family time. In my previous blog I wrote about the importance of family time. Reading with and to our children promotes both quality and quantity family time.
- Reading teaches confidence and inspires imagination. A favorite activity with my grandkids is to make up stories. We start with “Once upon a time…” and take turns adding lines to tell the story. Of course, with preschool boys, almost every story has monsters and poop in it, but we have a blast and I can see their little minds at work.
“YOU’R NEVER TOO OLD, TOO WACKY OR WILD, TO PICK UP A BOOK AND READ TO A CHILD.” – DR. SEUSS
We know how important reading is for our children’s development. As adults though, we’re “never to old” to benefit from reading as well. A recent study found adults who read are 2.5 times less likely to have Alzheimers. Reading enhances our memory and decreases stress. Just 6 minutes of reading a day has shown up to a 68% decrease in stress levels.
I love to read and often get caught up in a good book. Now I have some good excuses to keep on reading!
“I CAN READ IN RED. I CAN READ IN BLUE. I CAN READ IN PICKLE COLOR TOO.” – DR. SEUSS
One huge thing Dr. Seuss did was make reading FUN! As parents, we should follow his lead.
Encourage a variety of books to read. Take your children to the library or bookstore often and let them pick out their books. Follow their interests without forcing only what you think is best. I’ve read Tae Kwon Go, (a very silly book with monsters but no poop!) to my grandsons too many times. It’s not my favorite, but it is theirs, and so I read it to them.
Even after your children can read for themselves, I encourage you to continue reading together and taking turns. Discuss the books before, during and after reading with your children. And this might be the most important tip for parents… MODEL reading for your children. If it’s not important to you, it probably won’t be important to them.
“FILL YOUR HOUSE WITH BOOKS, IN ALL THE CRANNIES AND ALL THE NOOKS.” – DR. SEUSS
Reading and books should be part of your routine. A good friend has always given a book, tool and toy to her children for Christmas. She continues this with her adult children and grandchildren. I’ve heard many parents say their bedtime routine is the three Bs: Brush (teeth), Book and Bed.
Libraries offer story time weekly. I give books for Christmas to my siblings and their families. There are 60 of us, so I pick a theme, and start shopping early. Most of them actually do like it! Choose from these ideas or create your own reading routine.
“READ. TRAVEL. READ. ASK. READ. LEARN. READ. CONNECT. READ.” – DR. SEUSS
Lee’s Summit Physicians Group, Raintree Pediatrics, and Blue Springs Pediatrics wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Seuss about the importance of reading. Our providers discuss this at well visits, especially with our younger population. We have children’s books in our patient rooms to peruse while waiting. We’re going to pilot our own mini library in each of our offices starting March 1, 2020. With this library, we want your child to keep the book. It doesn’t need to come back.
We give out brand new books at select office well visits to encourage reading at home.
One study I came across showed that children in homes with 20 or more books have on average 3 more years of schooling than homes without books. With children, one can never have too many books!
“THE MORE YOU READ, THE MORE THINGS YOU WILL KNOW. THE MORE THAT YOU LEARN, THE MORE PLACES YOU’LL GO.” – DR. SEUSS
Here in the United States, less than half of children age 0-5 years are read to on a regular basis by a parent or family member. While this is a sad statistic to me, it’s fixable. Lee’s Summit Physicians Group, Raintree Pediatrics, and Blue Springs Pediatrics are working on improving this… and you can also. For your child, one book at a time will increase the things they will know, and the places they will go! Happy reading!