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Pediatricians can help promote literacy by encouraging parents to read daily to their young children

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises pediatric providers to encourage parents to read to their children from 6 months of age onward. Yet only 52 percent of children age 3 years and younger are reportedly read to every day by a parent, with about 27 percent of children read to 3 to 6 times a week, according to a study supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Health Resources and Services Administration (contract 240-97-0043).

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, analyzed responses to the 2000 National Survey of Early Childhood Health, which was administered by telephone to 2,068 parents of children aged 4 months to 35 months. They found that children were about twice as likely to be read to each day if they were older (19 to 35 months of age compared with 4 to 9 months) or their mother had more than a high school education, and they were 1.66 times more likely to be read to if a pediatric provider discussed with parents the importance of reading to their children. The odds of being read to were reduced by 32 percent when mothers were working full-time, by 39 percent for black race/ethnicity, by 44 percent for Hispanic race/ethnicity, and by 63 percent for Spanish language-dominant parents. The presence of more children in the household also reduced the odds of parents reading to their children.

Whether the child was in child care and the number of hours of television watched daily were not associated with reading frequency, but the presence of more children's books in the home was related to reading frequency. About 37 percent of parents of young children stated that their child's pediatric provider had not discussed the importance of early reading to them, yet nearly half (47 percent) of them said they would have found such a discussion helpful.

See "Parent report of reading to young children," by Alice A. Kuo, M.D., M.Ed., Todd M. Franke, Ph.D., Michael Regalado, M.D., and Neal Halfon, M.D., M.P.H., in the June 2004 Pediatrics 113(6), pp. 1944-1951.

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