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What do hospitals, pediatrics practices, and parents have in common? An Rx for reading! The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has announced a new policy that doctors should tell parents every chance they get to read aloud to their infants from birth.

Now Dr. Seuss was not a medical doctor, but maybe he was onto something. Something smart, something easy, something wholesome and healthy. Something simple, something good, something posilutely stealthy. It seems reading aloud, like talking and singing, is demonstrably good for children’s health. Who knew?! Researchers have long posited that being read to aloud enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills. By age 3, children of wealthier professionals have heard words millions more times than children of less educated, lower income parents. Experts always suspected the kids who hear more words fare much better in school. But now they know the younger the reading-to starts the better, as so much important brain development happens in the first 36 months of a child’s life.

So, thanks to the new AAP policy, every time a baby visits a doctor’s office the doctor and staff are going to recommend to the parent(s) they should read together on a daily basis as a fun family pastime. Simply brilliant. The pediatricians’ group is consciously trying to reduce literacy barriers between wealthier and lower income cohorts and gaps that exist between racial groups as well. According to Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, as quoted in The New York Times, “If we can get that first 1,000 days of life right, we’re really going to save a lot of trouble later on and have far less remediation.” Yes, the proverbial ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and if reading to a baby can help that child develop healthier habits, make better choices, and live a better life, society—and healthcare—will be the better for it.

As healthcare PR practitioners, let’s get behind that! Every communicator knows that a simple idea is often the most powerful, communicable and sustainable one. “Aloud and proud: read for your baby’s health” is not just a cute creative concept. It’s an idea for the ages—especially today, when it’s all too easy to hand junior an iPad or iPhone at age 2 and let him fend for himself, and when screens glare and blare incessantly at every individual of pretty much any age. Why not, for this demographic at least (but why not for senior citizens too), go back to a future where written words are delivered aloud, in the proper phrasing and pacing…gently or with gusto…tailored to the little listener’s interests and appetite. Attention parents, guardians, grandparents, babysitters and daycare providers of all ages, colors and stripes … anyone who can read: a waiting wide-eyed infant needs you. Open a book and dispense the good doctor’s medicine: words. Rich, playful, meaningful, vibrant, thoughtful, loving words. That’s the good stuff.

And, oh, healthcare marketers, if they can learn to ride this new reading rainbow? Oh, oh, the places they will go!

Editor’s note: The Times article goes on to point out that Dr. Navsaria is also the medical director of the Wisconsin chapter of Reach Out and Read, a nonprofit literacy group that gives out books to low-income families. Clearly he practices what he prescribes.


Written by:

Steven Johnson

Co-owner/Managing Partner, Riger Marketing Communications