Introducing children to books at an early age helps set a foundation for learning

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Meet Demarcus, a three-year-old boy who presented to Jaime McKinney, MD, FAAP, at UAB Primary Care Clinic in Birmingham. After evaluation and talking with his mother, Dr. McKinney determined that this little boy had only a four-word vocabulary, not because of autism, but because there was zero word exposure in his home environment due to the educational limitations of his parents.

Introducing children to books at an early age helps set their foundation for learning. It also establishes healthy habits needed for focusing and attention. Children do not learn from an electronic device before the age of two to three years old; if anything, early screen time leads to many learning delays. The most important years are the first three, so pour all of those ‘read out loud’ words into that rapidly developing brain.
— Jaime McKinney, MD, FAAP

Demarcus’s life and the lives of the other 1,800 children seen annually at UAB Primary Care have been changed through the generosity of donors and the work of Reach Out and Read-Alabama. More than 80 percent of a child's brain is formed during the first three years of life, and a child's experiences irreversibly affect how the brain develops - for better or worse. Research shows that positive, responsive parenting during the early years creates the strong parent-child bonds that promote healthy brain development.

Children like Demarcus deserve to thrive in the most optimal environment possible. The well-child visit with the pediatrician and other pediatric healthcare providers is the best opportunity to introduce early learning and help establish healthy habits.