“Reading to the youngest children is not only about reading as such, but also about interaction and book sharing. It has immense impact on the child’s brain development,” said Prof. Barry Zuckerman, an excellent pediatrician, in his lecture at the School of Education.
The open lecture given by the expert from the USA has aroused great interest – it was attended by over a hundred teachers, researchers, medical doctors, and parents. They all wanted to know why it is worth to read to a child starting from its first months of life?
Professor Zuckerman emphasized that in the case of babies and preschoolers it is not reading that matters but book sharing. It is about pointing to specific things, asking questions, looking for similarities between the child and the story heroes, interacting with the child. Evidence shows that critical for forming neural connections in brain is the period before the child starts education at school and even kindergarten. It is then that the child’s brain develops immensely and synapses are formed which then are used over the whole life. How we use that period impacts our child’s progress at school in later years, among other things.
No wonder Prof. Zuckerman – as the first pediatrician in the world – started to recommend reading on a par with vitamins as a necessary element of healthy children development. He initiated a nationwide program as part of which pediatricians give books to parents and teach them how they should present these books to youngest children. In his lecture in the School of Education, Prof. Zukerman emphasized the significant role of teachers in promoting reading through building strong communities popularizing the habit of reading in early childhood.
How to support development and the habit of reading?
After the lecture at the School of Education the Professor and experts, representatives of NGOs, public administration, business had a debate on how to cooperate effectively to support Polish families and increase children’s developmental potential.
Barry S. Zuckerman is Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine and co-founder of Reach Out and Read foundation that since 1989 has been running a national program of reading to children in the United States. He is the author of over 250 scientific publications in the field of pediatrics, an advisor to the National Commission on Children in the USA and a consultant to UNICEF programs in Turkey, Bangladesh and Serbia. In 2007 he won the prestigious plebiscite for the Best American Doctor.
The event was organized by Fundacja Powszechnego Czytania (Common Reading Foundation) and the Polish-American Freedom Foundation and University of Warsaw School of Education. The meeting was held as a part of Prescription Book. Prescription for Success program whose objective is to introduce the recommendation to read and talk to children from their birth as a permanent element to the children’s health promotion policy in Poland.