Reading is the Fundamental Skill for Learning
Reading, rather than being simply a “nice activity” or a developmental stage, allows humans to access, understand, and derive meaning from information. Even in our modern, digital society, the most efficient and effective conveyor of ideas is text. Children fluent in the language of television, DVDs, computer games, and the Internet, but not fluent in the decoding of text, will have difficulty learning.
Beyond this, however, the sharing of books together offers children and families opportunities to exchange ideas, enjoy physical closeness, and learn from one another. The sharing of both old favorites and new treasures forges close bonds and serves as a springboard for all sorts of conversations.
While many don’t realize it, the way a child handles a book is a microcosm of most facets of child development. Trained health care professionals can understand a great deal about a child’s experiences, motor skills, cognition, speech, and home environment merely by handing him or her a book and watching what happens.
At the University of Wisconsin Pediatric Early Literacy Projects, we aim to make accessibility to books and the promotion of reading a routine part of health care. While there are many worthy organizations that promote literacy, we feel that this skill is so critical to the academic futures of children (and the overall health of society) that it warrants side-by-side placement with other health and safety advice.