Reading to Newborns?

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The American Academy of Pediatrics recent recommendation to read aloud to your child from birth is blowing up every single one of my social media feeds, and I’m a little afraid my response will ostracize me from my various circles of inclusive, well-intentioned parent friends. That response?

Well, duh.

I think it’s fantastic that such a critical issue to early childhood development is getting some much-needed national attention, and that the importance of reading aloud is going to be included in those early conversations with your child’s pediatrician along with the value of breastfeeding and safe sleeping habits. But I can’t imagine not reading to your kids, or needing to be told by a licensed professional that it’s important before it becomes something that’s a part of your parent-child relationship. It depresses me that this is news, no matter how excited I am by the possible outcomes for a whole new generation of children. Nestling my daughter in my lap with a book was practically a biological imperative, and not just because I was an English major. At the very least, what else are you going to do before bedtime? Catch up on Caillou?

Don’t wait until they can start turning the pages. Don’t wait until they can appreciate the trippy quality of Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? (I still can’t). Don’t wait for them to bring you a book from the shelf. And seriously, get a shelf and put books on it where they can reach them while they’re still crawling. Skip the indie bookstores (for now) and let them chew on the thick board pages. Books are free at the library, and you can get them for nine cents at the thrift store. Nine. Cents.

If I’d waited to try to start reading to my daughter until now, when she’s still well below the age she’s likely to start reading on her own, it would not happen. I’m lucky if I can get a page into one of her favorites before she snatches it from my hands, scoots out of my lap, and says in full toddler imperiousness, “I read.” Do I still try?

Every single day.

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