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Your Baby

Reading to Infants has Long-Term Benefits


Children love to have stories read to them. The words and pictures excite their growing imaginations and according to a new study, may improve their learning capabilities when they start elementary school.

The researchers followed more than 250 children from the age of 6 months to 54 months. The investigators found that kids whose mothers started reading to them in early infancy had better vocabulary and reading skills four years later, just before the start of elementary school.

"These findings are exciting because they suggest that reading to young children, beginning even in early infancy, has a lasting effect on language, literacy and early reading skills," said lead author Carolyn Cates. She is a research assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine. 

"What they're learning when you read with them as infants still has an effect four years later when they're about to begin elementary school," she explained in a news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP.)

The findings show the importance of programs that promote parent-infant book reading soon after birth, Cates said.

Reading to your child not only improves academic achievement, but also builds a more supportive and stronger bond between a child and parent or caregiver. Snuggling up with a book lets the two of you slow down and experience unique moments together.

Reading aloud to your little one also helps baby or toddler learn basic speech skills by reinforcing the sounds of language.

Remember, every book (even ones that are read and over – and there will be many- as your child develops favorites!) is a unique opportunity to give your baby an advantage later in life when learning skills are put to the test.

The study is scheduled for presentation May 8 at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco. Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Story sources: Robert Preidt,

Your Child

Be an Involved Parent

2.00 to read

Millions of kids are back in school. For some it will be the start of a long educational journey, while others have already been in the system and are moving up to the next grade. Parents expect their children’s teachers to educate their kids, supervise their safety and keep them abreast of any changes or concerns they may see in their child’s behavior. Fair enough.

But what obligations should a parent have to their child’s education and school life? Many send their kids off to school and that’s that. Studies have shown and common sense tells you that the more involved a parent is with a child’s education at home and in school; the better a child learns and progresses.

Research has shown that children of involved parents are absent less frequently, behave better, make better grades from pre-school through high school and go farther in school.

They are often more socially mature and have a better sense of who they are.

The benefits don’t stop at school. A home environment that encourages learning is more important than parents' income, education level, or cultural background. By actively participating in their child's education at home and in school, parents send some critical messages to their child; they're demonstrating their interest in his/her activities and reinforcing the idea that school is valuable.

Not every parent has a lot of time they can spend with their child. The reality is that there are many single parent families. There are children who are being raised by a relative and children who are in foster care. Some schools are working on developing and implementing more flexible schedules that offer working parents options to spend extra time with their kids.

The National Education Association recommends some specific ways for parents to become more involved in their child's education.

At home:

- Read to your child. Reading aloud is the most important activity that parents can do to increase their child's chance of reading success

- Discuss the books and stories you read to your child

- Help your child organize his/her time

- Limit television viewing on school nights

- Talk to your child regularly about what's going on in school

- Check homework every night

Other tips for helping your child succeed in school come from teachers themselves.

- Teach your child to be prepared. No more excuses for late or not turned in homework

- Reinforce the importance of your child’s education. Whether you have a college degree, a high school education or dropped out let your child know that they are expected to complete school and continue with their education by either going to college or a trade school.

- Discuss newsworthy current events, and what is going on in your neighborhood, religious institution or pop culture. Listen to your child’s opinions with an open mind. Share your daily experiences in age appropriate language. The earlier a child feels an integral part of the family, the more they learn to value family, friends and others. Education includes a social awareness. 

- Go directly to the teacher of you have questions about your child’s progress or lack their of in school. Establish a good relationship with all your child’s teachers. Know their names and what they expect form your child. Let them know what you expect of them.

- Don’t try to get your child out of detention. Allow your child to accept the consequences of their behavior. Too many parents make excuses for their children’s bad behavior instead of facing it head on. Bailing your child out takes away their ability to learn responsibility. It can become an ugly habit and deprive your child of the maturity he or she will need to handle difficult situations. We all know there will be plenty of difficult times in everybody's lives. 

- Implement a consistent homework routine that focuses on relearning the day’s lessons.

- Respond to your school’s email and phone calls. Your child’s teacher is busy also and they wouldn’t be contacting you unless it was important. If you have concerns don’t wait to be contacted, be the one to reach out first.

- Volunteer. If at all possible volunteer to help with school or sports events. Showing your child that you are invested in them is the best way to teach them about unconditional love and sacrifice. Just knowing you care enough to give up some of your own precious time for them teaches them the true meaning of “I’ll always be there for you.”

When parents contribute effort and time, they have the opportunity to interact with teachers, administrators, and other parents. They can learn first-hand about the daily activities and the social culture of the school, both of which help them understand what their child's life is like.

Not every parent can be available for every school meeting or event. If you can’t make it, see if another family member or a close friend can be there in your place. For the 9 to 10 months that a child is in school – that is their world. Be a part of it, you’ll be glad you did and even if you get a little push back from your child, they’ll remember how much you cared when they're older and have kids of their own.

Sources: Anita Gurian PhD,

Pete Mason,

Daily Dose

What's on Your Child's Mind?

1.45 to read

Do you remember the saying “ a penny for your thoughts?”.  There are many of those old fashioned sayings that are no longer used, many of which  have been replaced by witty text acronyms.

This saying came to mind recently while I was talking to a mother about her 5 year old daughter. She told me that she often finds her daughter lost in “deep” thoughts and that she will ask , “what you are thinking about?”.   It made me pause a moment, as I truly don’t remember if I ever just stopped and asked my own boys this question. I hope that I did, but if not, it was a missed opportunity.  I only wish I could rewind and remember.

While talking to this mother she recounted how her daughter used to answer with things like, “ I am thinking about playing with our dog”, or “ I am thinking about the ice cream cone we just finished.”  Her answers were usually short, sweet and were often related to whatever activity she had just completed. But now that she had started kindergarten her mother says that the answers are much more complex and interesting.

When asked about her thoughts, which her mother says she makes sure to do once a day, the little girl will answer with things like, “ I am thinking about how many words end in …ag”, or “ I am thinking about counting by 5’s”.  What fun to get a glimpse inside that kindergarten brain which is absorbing her new learning environment like a sponge and loving every minute!   This mom is trying to write down a few of these cute answers so that she can look back at these special memories one day. She is VERY organized!

So… ask your child of any age, “a penny for your thoughts?”. You may need to raise the ante for this decade, maybe a “dollar for your thoughts” , or an I-tune song download for your thoughts”, (especially for that teen group)  but you may get a glimpse into your child’s/adolescent’s mind and start a great conversation.  You can’t go back in time but you can start now! Think I will take my own advice and the next time I see my boys I think this will be one of my new “lines”!

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Your Baby

Study: Preemies Do Well in School


Parents of premature babies often worry how their child will do academically later in life. A new study may ease their minds.

Researchers followed more than 1.3 million premature babies born in Florida and found that two-thirds of those born at only 23 or 24 weeks were ready for kindergarten on time, and almost 2 percent of those infants later achieved gifted status in school.

Though extremely premature babies often scored low on standardized tests, preterm infants born 25 weeks or later performed only slightly lower than full-term infants. For babies born after 28 weeks, the differences in test scores were negligible.

"We know a lot about the medical and clinical outcomes [of premature babies] and we know some about short-term educational outcomes, but what we didn't know is how the babies do once they get further out into elementary school and middle school," the study's first author Dr. Craig Garfield, associate professor of pediatrics and of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told CBS News.

The babies were born in Florida from 1992 to 2002 with gestational ages of 23 to 41 weeks who later entered Florida public schools between 1995 and 2012. The scope of the study included a diverse group of children with varied backgrounds and economic status.

The study did not include additional research possibly connected to the children’s development such as medical issues related to premature birth, or information about factors that may have helped these children perform well in school, such as their biological makeup or if they got extra support from family or school programs.

"This is a really large group of children," Garfield said. "A lot of studies are done in a select group, but the population in this study is really all the babies that were born and lived up to one year in Florida and we were able to follow them through the education system to eighth grade."

Senior author David Figlio, director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, acknowledges concerns that very premature infants (those born between 22 and 24 weeks of pregnancy) tend to score well below their full-term peers on standardized tests. However, he said he believes "the glass is more than half-full."

"Most infants born at 23 to 24 weeks still demonstrate a high degree of cognitive functioning at the start of kindergarten and throughout school," he said in a statement.

The study is good news for parents already consumed with uncertainty about the future of their premature infant – something they need during a very difficult time.

Story source: Ashley Welch,

Daily Dose

Keep the Conversation Going With Teens About Sex

Recently, it was my “office/desk” day and while I am busy answering emails, tweets and phone calls, I had The View on in the background. I keep telling my husband I can multi task! The “ladies” were talking about the rise in teenage pregnancies.

If you read some of my older posts, you will see that this topic is near and dear to my heart, as I take care of so many teen girls and have been for over 20 years. I too have seen younger girls engaging in pre-marital sex but I have also seen a lot of girls making the choice to abstain from having sex during their teenage years, and some who are committed to not having sex until marriage. I do not think it is just because they have been taught abstinence in our schools. I must disagree with Elizabeth Hasselbeck on this issue, as she does not think that the rise in teen pregnancies is at all related to “abstinence only” education. I do not think that this is the single reason for the increase in teen pregnancies, but I do think it has contributed to the staggering and disheartening numbers of teen pregnancies that we are seeing. The collective “we” must being doing something wrong as just like the economy, the numbers are telling. In order for anyone to make good “life choices” you have to have education and education should be all encompassing. If we are allowing our children to watch all of the TV shows that show frequent sex, and go to movies, even PG-13 that have frequent sexual innuendos, and let them have computers and iPhones with internet access to “sites with sex” why are we not teaching them about condoms and birth control as well as abstinence. They are certainly not seeing movie stars using condoms or getting sexually transmitted diseases during a TV show or movie, as there seem to be no consequences in Hollywood (at least on screen). The idea that adolescents will not have sex if we tell them not to seems as unrealistic to me as trying to tell them to not eat junk food and expecting all of them to listen and eat an apple after school. I do both things with my patients (discuss why not to have sex, and why you need to eat healthy foods), but at the same time I also educate them about what to do if they do decide to have sex before marriage. The more openly we discuss sex and sexuality with our teens, the better chance we have of teaching them why it is important to make smart choices, and that means being taught about birth control or how to buy and put on a condom if they are going to have sex. Discussions surrounding the emotional as well as the physical feelings of engaging in sex are equally important. In my practice I also discuss how girls and boys “feel” differently about sex, because I really think they do. I also teach girls that if they are going to have sex, and their partner doesn’t have a condom then they should be responsible and carry one to use. Anything that can help both educate and protect teens is important. Open discussions only provide more opportunity for further education. I cannot think of one instance in my practice where a teen has decided to have sex because I have told them that they may buy a condom to help prevent sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy. They were going to have sex regardless, but maybe I helped them think ahead about how to take proper precautions. I can only hope so. I don’t presume to have all of the answers, but I just felt compelled to comment on this again. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Homework Help: The REAL Lesson

When you kids have homework to do, how much help do you give them? I can remember the first time a son of mine had homework and how exciting it was for “us” to all sit together and watch him do his homework and let him ask for help when he needed it. I can also remember the last time a child asked me for help with his homework, in Calculus, and I had no idea what he was doing.  So the full circle of homework has been completed in my house.

While I was so anxious to begin the whole homework thing as a first time parent (as we are for so many milestones), I was equally joyful when I no longer even thought about a child’s homework, and also knew I was no longer even competent to help. (Calculus, are you kidding me, it was a lifetime ago).  I think homework has a real purpose when a teacher gives an assignment to reinforce the day’s lesson, and the amount of homework is not unreasonable.  There were times as a parent that I felt that there may have been too much homework, or that the homework was really busy work, but be that as it may, it was an assignment from a teacher and therefore it was completed. I was fortunate that from the beginning we started having a good homework routine where our boys all gathered at the kitchen table to do homework in the afternoon. The routine was pick up carpool, come home and get a snack, have some down time, typically outside to get rid of excess boy energy, and then homework started.  The habit of doing homework at the kitchen table began with our oldest son and his brother’s followed suit. When our oldest son started school, the younger boys would “want” to have homework and we would make up things for them to do. As everyone got older the kitchen table suddenly had 3 boys doing homework and they would often help one another. The other thing about being a working mother was that I was often not at home to “supervise” homework, or to make sure that it was being done. I was fortunate I guess, it was just assumed that “homework is finished before Mom gets home”. By the time our boys were in middle school and high school, they had typically moved to a desk in their own rooms.  The benchmark of getting “your own desk” was somewhat of privilege and a ”right of passage”  in our house, and each child took great pride in the fact that they had a desk in their room and had moved out of the kitchen. Once our children had left the communal homework kitchen table I really never knew if and when they finished their homework.  They were responsible for knowing what they needed to do each night, and for getting it completed. Their father and I did not know when they had tests of what needed to be done, but we were there to support them if needed. What we did do is have dinner ready for them each evening and they had “a bedtime range” which was usually followed. They also had what we called “a homework pass”.  In other words each semester they would get a “ticket” that allowed them to call us from school to bring a forgotten assignment, or take them back to school to pick up a forgotten book. They got one each semester, beyond that, as difficult as it was, they had to figure out how to get that assignment or suffer the consequences. It was probably harder on me than them, but it was a lesson well learned. They did not forget many things at school or home and I think it made them the organized young adults they are today. The hardest thing for a parent is to watch your child struggle, or fail. But sometimes it is THE most important lesson that they will learn. Letting your child suffer the consequences of a paper not turned in on time, or a homework assignment not done, hurts every parent. But more importantly, it will prepare your son or daughter for college and their careers beyond. As much as we “want” to do the work, or bring them the project, that is not our job as parents.  Our job is to prepare them to be responsible, organized and independent adults who will go forward on their own, and not call home to talk to “the boss”. That's your daily dose.  We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Parent Teacher Conference Time

What ever parent needs to know before they step into a parent teacher conference for their child.I can always tell when it is school conference time as my voice mails, emails and messages increase and the messages all begin with, “we just came out of Susie’s school conference and need to talk to you”.

Now that school has been in session anywhere from 6-8 weeks, report cards are going home and teachers are having school conferences with parents to discuss their child’s progress. This is really an important time of year to start assessing a child’s progress in school, and to encourage a child to attain their maximum potential with the help of a teacher’s guidance. For younger children who are just starting school, it is important to discuss how a child is learning. Young children may show wide variations in learning, in other words you may see some 4 year olds who are already reading while others are not interested at all and only want to be on the playground. Although some schools “want” their pre-kindergarteners to be reading, not every child’s brain is  “ready to read” at the age of 4-5.  Many of my recent phone calls were from concerned parents who felt as if their child was “already behind”. It is hard to not “worry’ when you have been told by a teacher that your child is not yet reading and “everyone else is”, but many studies continue to show that not all children will be ready to read in pre-K or kindergarten. I think that the most important milestone for a child of this age is that they are being read to every evening and are getting an opportunity to “tell their own stories” even if they are not interested in trying to sound out words. It is really too young to begin testing a child for reading difficulties, as their brain may just not be ready to decode words.  They just need a little more time to see how they progress. The same thing is true developmentally for focus and activity. A preschool child and new kindergartner still want to spend a great deal of their day “playing”. It is very hard to decide what is “hyperactive” in a 4-5 year old who may not be quite ready to sit in a chair and work on pre-reading worksheets, but long to be outside swinging and climbing. A child of this age may not be “ready” to follow 3 different instructions by a teacher who wants them to “put up their backpack, get out their book for reading, and then color the worksheet”.  They may on the other hand be capable of following instructions to “put up their backpack, feed the fish and then go outside to play.” The difference in following instructions may not be due to an auditory processing disorder but rather a child’s different interests at this age. As a child gets older and approaches the 5 -6 year old age many of them will developmentally begin to sound out words or to follow more complex directions or to “sit still “ a little longer. We just need to give some of these pre-schoolers and new kindergartners a chance and watch and wait as they mature. Some may indeed have issues with attention or reading problems or auditory processing problems but the important message is that it is just too soon to “label” them or to test them for learning disabilities. I would also discourage “labeling a child” who has not even started  elementary school. So, when you talk to your teaches this Fall, listen and discuss any concerns your teacher may have,  but don’t be too quick to label  your 4-6 year old  They are still changing and growing  as are their young brains. We seem to be trying to get this age to “conform” and some may just need a little more time.  Have your teacher give you ideas of ways to work with your child at home. Be patient and consistent and let’s see what the next 4-5 months brings when it will be time for another conference. That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your comment or question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Talking To Children About Sex

With the recent news that teenage pregnancy rates are on the rise for the first time in over 20 years, it seems to be a good time to discuss the importance of talking to your children about sex.With the teenage pregnancy rates on the rise over the past 2 years, it seems to be a good time to discuss the importance of talking to your children about sex. The “birds and the bees” talk is a sentinel moment and should be a required prerequisite before your child enters middle school. For some parents this “talk” is easy and does not intimidate them, but for others they get sweaty palms, and feel sick to their stomachs.

I am sure there is also a group in between. Wherever you fall in the spectrum really doesn’t matter, but this is one of the most important discussions parents will have with their children.  Many parents start discussing the differences between boys and girls as young as age 4 or 5. I myself have given this talk countless times and teach a class at our church as well. But, when it was time to discuss this with our first son, I too felt ill prepared. The discussion was necessitated as he was about eight-years-old and kept singing a song with the words “sex you up” in it. Obviously, I had let him listen to some inappropriate song on the radio. Nevertheless, this prompted my husband and myself to head to the bookstore to look for the appropriate book/books to begin the initial discussion and I know that book has been well worn over the years. It was not detailed, but explained in fairly simple terms how a “mommy and a daddy” each had “special parts, (which were identified correctly) that “connected” and that a sperm and an egg came together to make a baby. It was very basic, with simple cartoonish type pictures. We read the book and had a discussion together and answered any questions that he had. It went fairly well, he took in the information and went outside to play. That is just the beginning. The time came up again for further discussion when he announced at about age nine that his pet hamster, Sally, “was going to have babies.” Immaculate conception alone in her cage. Discussion number two was just around the corner. I myself do not think that any one discussion about human reproduction and sex is enough. It also depends when you begin these discussions. Some inquisitive children will ask hundreds of questions, while others won’t say a word, either way the talks must go on. Keep the information age appropriate no matter where you begin. Don’t be embarrassed as if you are they will be too. That is why it is called: The Facts of Life. But as children enter their teen years I think the discussions should be explicit and open. If you think they cannot find any information they would like by just surfing the web, then wake up, as it is all there. I would much rather sit down with my own children and discuss every detail they would like to know and at the same type impart factual information as well as our family values. The more information you give them the better decisions they may make. I believe that they should be taught abstinence, but also what to do if they are going to engage in pre-marital sex, which by the way does include oral sex. Let them know about condoms, birth control and other methods to prevent STD’s and pregnancy. We are failing our children if we do not empower them to make thoughtful, well informed choices with as much guidance as we can give them. Seeing the teen birth rate on the rise should never be due to lack of information and family discussions. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. Send Dr. Sue your question now!

Your Child

Kid’s With Partial Deafness Should be Treated


Many parents that have a child with partial deafness do not get the condition treated according to new research.

“Traditionally, asymmetric deafness in childhood, particularly when only one ear is affected, has been overlooked or dismissed as a concern because the children have had some access to sound,” said lead author Karen Gordon of Archie’s Cochlear Implant Laboratory at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada.

“The problem is that children with asymmetric hearing still have a hearing loss,” Gordon said in an email to Rueters Health. “Without normal hearing from both ears, they experience deficits locating sounds around them.”

While a child with partial hearing can hear sounds, the task is more difficult when there are other noises in the room or other people speaking at the same time, Gordon said.

One of the main issues is lack of information,” said Dayse Tavora-Vieira of the University of Western Australia n West Perth, who was not part of the new review. “The implications of unilateral hearing loss/deafness have been historically underestimated by professionals and this has reflected on how they counsel parents.”

Also, the children may not show a handicap until educational, social and emotional concerns become clear later in life, she told Reuters Health in an email.

The researchers noted that newborns and young children with deafness in one ear should be treated early to help minimize long-term problems such as delayed speech and language development as well as being at risk of poor academic performance, usually with poorer vocabulary and simpler sentence structure than their normal-hearing peers, Tavora-Vieira said.  

Gordon and her colleagues reviewed research from neuroscience, audiology and clinical settings “that points to the existence of an impairment of the central representation of the poorer hearing ear if developmental asymmetric hearing is left untreated for years,” they write.

“We suggest that asymmetric hearing in children be reduced by providing appropriate auditory prostheses in each ear with limited delay,” Gordon noted. “The type of auditory prosthesis will depend on the degree and type of hearing loss.”

According to the 2009 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, almost two in every 1,000 babies have some form of deafness discovered by early life screening.

With those kinds of numbers, what types of treatments are available for a child’s hearing loss? Currently, there is the cochlear implant for profound deafness, a hearing aid, a bone anchored hearing aid or a personal listening device like a radio-enabled ear-bud in the hearing ear. For the last treatment, a speaking source, like a teacher, speaks into a microphone, which transmits sound by FM signal to the ear-bud.

“Appropriate recommendations can be made by otolaryngologists and audiologists,” Gordon said.

Parents should seek a second opinion if a diagnosis is made and no options for rehabilitation are offered, Tavora-Vieira noted.

The research was published in the June online edition of Pediatrics.

Source: Kathryn Doyle,



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