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Your Child

What’s the Best Way to Teach Children How to Read?


For many years, there’s been an intense debate on the best way to teach a child to read. A research group in London decided to find the answer to the argument; which is a more effective learning process for kids – teaching “whole-word meanings” or sounding out words (phonics)?

The findings found that the phonics method was the clear winner.  

In order to assess the effectiveness of using phonics the researchers trained adults to read in a new language, printed in unfamiliar symbols, and then measured their learning with reading tests and brain scans.

Professor Kathy Rastle, from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway said, "The results were striking; people who had focused on the meanings of the new words were much less accurate in reading aloud and comprehension than those who had used phonics, and our MRI scans revealed that their brains had to work harder to decipher what they were reading."

Children learning to read in the United Kingdom are required to use the phonics system. The impact of phonics is measured through a screening check administered to children in Year 1 of school. The results of this screening check have shown year-on-year gains in the percentage of children reaching an expected standard -- from 58% in 2012 to 81% in 2016.

Critics of the phonics only system say, while this method may help children read better aloud, it doesn’t necessarily promote reading comprehension. Some educators suggest combining the two methods to help children read aloud well and increase comprehension.

However, the study’s authors say teaching phonics is the most effective.

"There is a long history of debate over which method, or mix of methods, should be used to teach reading," continued Professor Rastle "Some people continue to advocate using a variety of meaning-based cues, such as pictures and sentence context, to guess the meanings of words. However, our research is clear that reading instruction that focuses on teaching the relationship between spelling and sound is most effective. Phonics works."

The paper describes how people who are taught the meanings of whole words don't have any better reading comprehension skills than those who are primarily taught using phonics. In fact, those using phonics are just as good at comprehension, and are significantly better at reading aloud, researchers noted.

The researchers say they will continue investigating how reading expertise develops in the brain.

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Story source:

Your Toddler

Proof That Reading to Your Child is Good for Them


Not only do small children love being read to but a new study confirms that it is actually good for them.

Brain scans taken of 19 preschoolers whose parents regularly read to them showed heightened activity in important areas of the brain. Experts have long theorized that reading to young children on a consistent basis has a positive impact on their brain development; researchers say this study provides hard evidence that it does.

 The study’s leader Dr. John Hutton, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center,

 and his team used functional MRI scans to measure real-time brain activity in 19 children, aged 3 to 5 years, as they listened to stories and to sounds other than speech.

Parents were interviewed about "cognitive stimulation" at home, including how often they read to their children. Based on their responses, the number ranged from two nights a week to every night.

Overall, Hutton's team found, the more often children had story time at home, the more brain activity they showed while listening to stories in the research lab.

The impact was largely seen in the area of the brain that is used to obtain meaning from words. There was "particularly robust" activity, the researchers said, in areas where mental images are formed from what is heard.

"When children listen to stories, they have to put it all together in their mind's eye," Hutton explained.

Even though children's books have pictures, he added, that's different from watching all the action play out on a TV or computer screen.

When a child is listening to a story being read to them, they are engaging a different part of the brain than when they are passively sitting in front of a screen with images.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to read to their children every day, starting at birth. That pre-kindergarten time is a critical time for brain development, Hutton said. Other research has found that children with poor reading skills in first grade usually do not "catch up" with their peers.

Hutton believes that a traditional story time provides a critical "back-and-forth" between parents and children.

"It's not just a nice thing to do with your child," he said. "It's important to their cognitive, social and emotional development."

Reading to your child can help him or her build a lifelong relationship with the written word. That skill will help them be able to navigate more easily in school, later on in business and can bring hours of personal pleasure through the stories of gifted writers.

Source: Amy Norton,



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,

Daily Dose

Entertaining Kids in the Waiting Room

Here's a dilemma: how do you entertain your kids while waiting in the pediatrician's office?What a busy day back in the office post holiday weekend! When I walk into an exam room, I'm always curious to see what my patients and their parents are doing while they wait (wish I never ran late and no one ever waited!).  At any rate, I got into a really interesting discussions with several parents as to what we should have in our waiting room and exam rooms to help make the waiting easier.

A mini poll revealed no clear consensus but there were some very intriguing ideas and comments. Our group practice “voted” last year to put TV’s in our waiting rooms. For the record I voted NO, as I thought it was hypocritical to have TV’s in our office when we were discussing limiting screen time (TV, computer etc) with our families. But, majority rules, and I lost, so we have TV’s in all of our waiting areas. Now, when the TV’s were all installed, it was decided that they would not be on all day long. Instead, there would be TV time as well as quiet time as we have reading and “library” areas in our waiting room too. Just like many homes, I realized that the TV came on at 8:30 am and stayed on until 10 pm at night. Our practice never had designated “reading time”.  Despite having books, most of the kids and parents opted to watch the Disney channel on TV. So, two different parents spoke to me today about our TV selections and how they seemed to be geared to older children.  I thought we watched Disney, but must admit I am not in the waiting room censoring TV or watching what TV shows are on throughout the day. The best line of the day was a precocious, adorable 5 year old who told me, “my Mommy says your office is inappropriate.”  Of course I immediately thought she was talking about waiting. But, upon further questioning not only could she tell me what the word inappropriate meant, “ if you go outside naked, that is inappropriate” she also told me that it was the TV show that was on while they were in the waiting room that her mother deemed inappropriate.   It happened to be a Disney show with Miley Cyrus. I think I have to agree with her. Probably not age appropriate for all children. Her mother and I got into a great discussion about ideas for better viewing options, including movies like Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music or even The Little Mermaid (there are scary parts there too).  I commend this mom for voicing her opinion and really being aware what her children are watching. This family only has 1 TV in their home.   I think we should hire her to come up with our viewing options and make DVD’s for our office that are more appropriate for all ages. Another mother talked to me about having quiet time and reading in the waiting room. She thinks that this would actually calm bored children while they wait.  (I have very fond memories of reading Highlight’s magazine in the pediatrician’s office with my mother helping to look for the hidden objects).  It would also mean that the parent is engaged while reading with or to a child. She noted that most parents in the waiting room today were on their cell phones or iPads etc. and that the children were either running around or watching TV.  She always brings a bag of books with her when she comes and I bet her children will always have a love of books. Will have to see. I don’t know the right answer, but I really appreciated the comments.  We are going to try and start having our waiting room have designated reading times and TV times and see if we can get to a happy medium. I know we will never make everyone happy but this should be a good start.  Wish us luck! That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your feedback, comment or email to Dr. Sue!

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