Parents should start reading to kids in infancy, doctors say

The nation's largest pediatricians' group says parents should read aloud to their children every day starting in infancy, to help prepare young minds for language development and future academic success.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued the policy statement Tuesday, emphasizing the importance of what it called a "critical time in child development, which, in turn, builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime."

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"Parents don't always think of giving books to infants," Dr. Jill Fussell, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, told "But even young infants can visually attend to book pages with black-and-white patterns or with bright, contrasting colors for short time periods."

The academy urged pediatricians to spread the message to parents of young children and to provide books to needy families.

Encouraging parents to read to their kids, starting at a very young age, "can enhance parent-child relationships and prepare young minds to learn language and early literacy skills," the group said.

To help promote reading, the doctors' group is teaming up with the Clinton Foundation's Too Small to Fail program, children's book publisher Scholastics Inc., and a group called Reach out and Read. That nonprofit group works with doctors and hospitals to distribute books and encourage early reading.