Knowing When Reading to Kids Should Begin at an Early Age
(WTNH)–Are parents reading books to their children at a young age? The phrase has gone viral on social media; it’s connected to something called the “passage-point hypothesis.” It argues that your child’s brain does two things at once – reads and formulates ideas. Dr. Vincent DeStefano explains what the theory is, and what it means for parents.
It’s been argued that reading to children, specifically to babies, helps stimulate those areas of the brain that drive speech development. That, the theory goes, makes children better communicators.
“Then, talking with babies is connected to the transfer of that speech to reading,” said Dr. DeStefano. “So that when you read to a child, you’re helping their cognitive function and their language and all the other aspects that they’re developing.”
Dr. DeStefano said parents and baby might communicate through eye contact; as babies baby sees “their mother’s face,” and looks up to see “their mother’s features.” That “eye contact” part gives you a sense of when they start to form words.
Early on, his daughter Lavinia was immersed in a Charlotte’s Web book. He was reading it to her while she slept. He’d lie in the position where the book’s magic unfolding had taken place. One day, he noticed Lavinia had a mouthful of bruises. Her face was bruised so badly, she couldn’t eat or drink.
“That’s when I knew, I’m not doing anything right,” he said.
But Dr. DeStefano couldn’t know for sure whether there was anything he could have done to prevent Lavinia’s injuries. He saw the bruises as a pattern.
“I kept noticing she had bruises, scratches, contusions on her left cheek, her mouth, right cheek, left upper lip, so there was definitely something going on,” he said.
These bruises had been occurring for months, which Dr. DeStefano said is consistent with impacts from a toddler hitting the head while playing on a car seat. But these aren’t the kinds of bruises we see in road traffic collisions.
“Of course, you can’t go from zero to 60 by telling children this is the definition of a traffic accident,” said Dr. DeStefano. “But by talking to them, teaching them how to be safe, you can have a big effect on just helping their developing protective cognition.”
The arc of the theory is that reading books to your child, through the passage-point hypothesis, both helps them form words – an active process to develop cognitive skills – and helps them form language.
“There is something there that needs to happen,” said Dr. DeStefano. “But how do you know if you’re doing it right? How do you know if it’s working? That’s the question.”
He said parents who are unsure can ask their child. Asking if they’re happy to do something like eat something cold, is a great first step, even if you suspect it.
Dr. DeStefano said you can start reading to your child when they’re around 6 months old. “The main thing is, keep on reading,” he said. “Look them in the eye. Talk to them. Be loving and engaging. You’re not only reinforcing what they’re learning, it’s also helping their protective cognition.”