A Baby’s First Teachers Are Her Parents

Help your patients get ready to talk, read, and sing to their new baby.

Scientists are aware of the importance of language development in children ages 0-3 years, especially among families in lower socio-economic groups. In a landmark study, Hart and Risely found that parents in the lower socioeconomic (LSE) group speak fewer words and speak fewer complicated sentences to their young children. Consequently, by age 3 they found a significant difference in vocabulary and sentence structure among children from LSE compared to middle socioeconomic (MSE) and upper socioeconomic (USE) groups. These differences resulted in children being behind by as much as 18 months in language skills when they entered the first grade. Furthermore, children who were behind upon entering school were likely to continue to lag behind when tested in third and eighth grades.

The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) now explicitly states that children should be read to from birth.

Reinforcing the importance reading, singing and talking to their babies can be done by agencies who serve families and pediatricians. Yet, there may be no better time than pregnancy to begin this messaging. Mothers-to-be are particularly receptive to messages; they will quit substance use, commit to breast feeding and accept vaccines during pregnancy if they understand there is benefit to their baby. Messaging is a part of the responsibility of the obstetrician and the prenatal team. The patient and her family members who will be involved in the care of the baby should be advised of the importance of talking directly to the baby, using complex sentences, speaking clearly and not using baby talk, engaging in face-to-face time with the baby, playing games and reading out loud.

Please share this site with your clients or patients and encourage them to watch the videos.

Reach Out and Read is a national nonprofit that champions the positive effects of reading daily and engaging in other language-rich activities with young children. You can find out more about their research and results a the links below:

Finally, we have provided a video below that demonstrates how to model reading to a new parent that your office personnel may find helpful.

For more information about the OB CARES program at Regional One Health in Memphis, TN, please contact Owen Phillips, MD, MPH at [email protected].