The First5California campaign (www.first5california.com) tells us that it’s never too early to start reading to our children. That’s music to the ears of those of us in the reading business. (First5California also encourages singing and talking to your youngest family members.)
The folks at First5California remind us that more than 80 percent of a child’s brain growth is completed by age 3. When we talk, read, and sing to our babies, we “build connections in the brain that will affect your child’s life forever.”
So, we know when to start reading to them (as soon as they’re born). When is the right time to stop?
Short answer? Never.
Dr. Susanne Schuett, a member of the Psychology Department at the University of Vienna in Vienna does research about (among other things) aging and the elderly. “Reading,” she says,”is a very special physical activity and it determines how we grow old.”
Note to self.
In 1999, Carolyn Banks wrote an article entitled “Reading Aloud to the Elderly” for the Lancet, a medical journal in the U.K. In it she describes her experience as a volunteer in an adult day-care center in Austin, Texas. After several attempts to find an activity to engage the men and women attending the daycare, she tried to imagine what she would most miss were she in their shoes. The answer came quickly: she would miss reading. And so, she began reading out loud to her audience. The response was amazing.
At the conclusion of her article, Banks observes, “Reading aloud might not be a great activity for someone who does not ordinarily read. Being read to, on the other hand, seems to be as welcome as a touch, whether or not the listeners had been readers or the words have literal meaning any longer.”
We know that reading is a lifelong skill, but it’s also a lifelong connection. So start when they’re born and don’t ever stop.