National study reveals: Babies and toddlers need more reading time

A recent national study shows there’s good news and challenges when it comes to families reading daily with infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

The good news is parents recognize that reading with young children is important in developing language and literacy skills. The challenge is families aren’t starting early enough.

Scholastic recently released the Kids and Family Reading Report, its annual survey of children’s reading. The report shows that while 73 percent of parents say they started reading aloud to their child before age 1, more than 50 percent say they did not start until their baby was 6 months old.

First Things First, a Scottsdale-based nonprofit, reminds Arizona families that 90 percent of a child’s critical brain development happens by age 5 and daily interactions with caregivers have a huge impact on building vocabulary and language. When infants hear and use language, their brains develop the connections needed to learn how to read.

“General knowledge, attention and vocabulary at ages 3 and 4 correlate to reading comprehension skills in third and fourth grade,” said First Things First Senior Director of Early Learning, Ginger Sandweg.

“Reading, talking, singing and playing with young children are ways that families can use everyday moments to encourage literacy and language development.”

Statewide, First Things First’s YouTube page hosts videos that demonstrate how to read with infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The organization also partners with Read On Arizona, which engages communities in supporting early literacy for kids birth to 8 years old and has an early literacy guide and book suggestions for every developmental stage on their website,

Here are a few things families can do to help their babies and toddlers develop those important language and literacy skills:

  • Read to your child every day starting at birth. Even very young babies respond to the warmth of a lap and the soothing sound of a book being read aloud.
  • Keep a lot of reading material in your home and let your child see you reading.
  • Make frequent visits to the public library.
  • Talk frequently to your baby, toddler or preschooler; ask them lots of questions and listen patiently to their answers.
  • Sing songs and make up rhymes.
  • Choose books appropriate to your child’s age and interests; for example, board or cloth books that a baby can hold.
  • Point out letters in your child’s environment.
  • Read signs and labels out loud; talk about how things are similar and different.

First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how those funds are spent are made by local councils staffed by community volunteers.

To learn more, visit

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