Cedars-Sinai Blog

Doctor's Orders: Read Early and Often

A man and a child reading a book

Whether wrinkling noses at green eggs and ham, giggling at the antics of a mischief-making cat, or musing over the places they'll go, millions of children rely on Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) for bedtime stories.

Today marks the beloved author's 113th birthday, and children across the country will celebrate Read Across America Day.

Cracking a book to read at bedtime or anytime with your children is a great idea—and smart health habit—even if they're babies, says Dr. Charles Simmons, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Cedars-Sinai’s Maxine Dunitz Children’s Health Center.

Dr. Simmons's favorite Dr. Seuss books? Green Eggs and Ham and Oh! The Places You'll Go!

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you start reading to your children as infants. (And they built this early literacy toolkit to help!)

"Dr. Seuss's legacy is linked with this important issue of reading to your child and contributes to the bigger topic of cognitive development," Dr. Simmons says. "Reading and speech skills are increasingly important to develop, especially in this era of technology."

This is true even before your child is beginning on their ABCs. The first three years of childhood are crucial to development in the parts of the brain that handle communication.

Dr. Simmons has a few tips for parents on how and why to read to kids:

Build speech skills
Story time gives children a chance to hear how letters and words sound and helps them learn new words and how to say them.

Help with brain development
In the first three years of childhood, reading is critically important for how fast the brain develops in the communication areas.

Build your bond
Reading a lot to your child can create repetition, trust, and predictability. These are all good for little ones. A bedtime reading ritual can lead to deeper family connections and a lifetime love of reading.

Clue in to how your child is developing
Reading is not only cognitively therapeutic, it can be a valuable diagnostic tool. You'll get a sense of how they're able to focus, how well they're able to understand a story, and how their speech is coming along.

Help kids develop emotionally
Talking about the emotions of the characters in the story can give you a chance to talk to kids about their own feelings, like being happy, sad, or mad.

Ask questions while you read
Asking about what characters are thinking or what might happen next is a fun way for kids to learn. It also helps build language skills, instills a desire to learn, and supports early reading skills.

It's never too early to start and kids are never too old for reading together
Just as reading to babies is a valuable start, children will benefit from reading with you even when they can read on their own. Try books at a higher reading level to encourage continued growth.

Dr. Simmons's favorite Dr. Seuss books? Green Eggs and Ham and Oh! The Places You'll Go!

As Seuss said in the latter, "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose."

Reading to your children early and often will help steer their brains and their feet in the right direction.