Ever watch a movie or television show and see a little child ask their mom or dad to read a bed-time story? Turns out it’s not just a cute nod to suburban culture…reading bed time stories is good for kids and important for their development!

A new recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to read aloud to infants from birth. During the first three years of a child’s life, the brain processes a tremendous amount of information vital for its optimal development. Reading aloud to children has been shown to enhance vocabulary and other important communication skills. Reading, talking, and singing with children can significantly increase the number of words children hear in the early years of life.

Unfortunately, reading among families is down across the board, and the disparity is more evident when comparing income levels. According to a federal government survey, 60% of children from wealthier families were read to daily from birth to 5 years, resulting in hearing words millions more times than children of less educated, low-income parents, of which only 33% read daily. This results in a distinct advantage in school, and new research shows the gap emerges as early as 18 months old.

Considering smartphones and tablets have become affordable across almost every income level, more and more children are spending their time in front of screens rather than books. The AAP already recommended that parents keep children away from screens until age two, and now the AAP is urging pediatricians to become powerful advocates for daily reading time.

It is never too early to expose children to literature, music, and art. Taking small steps like reading a bed-time story every night can have a profound impact on a child’s learning preferences and cognitive function as they get older. It’s time we turn off the screens and turn on our brains!