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Babies and books go together

by Tammy Keith | March 12, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.

Because I thrive on guilt, I like to make a mental list of what I did right and wrong raising my children.

One thing I’m proud of is that I read to my boys from the time they were in the womb. My husband and I are big readers and journalists, so our house has always overflowed with books.

Reading our boys a bedtime story was just part of our ritual, whether it was The Monster at the End of the Book (and I do a pretty good Grover imitation), Goodnight Moon or Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. I never left home without a couple of books tucked into the diaper bag. My older son especially liked the ones that showed pictures of other babies.

I never said no to buying a book, and I lugged home entire boxes from garage sales. I used to collect Little Golden Books, especially the older, 25-cent ones. I literally have hundreds, including my favorite as a child, Ukelele and Her New Doll, and, of course, Tammy, which came with paper dolls. Lucky for me, my mother loved to read, too, and she read to me.

I noticed in a national newspaper a column by the co-founder of Read Aloud 15 Minutes. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of the group, but it sounds pretty awesome.

The author contends that most parents don’t understand how much brain development happens between birth and age 3. She said research shows that the earlier a child is read to (for example, to my bulging belly 27 years ago), the more likely he is to have the skills for preschool and be interested in reading.

That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading aloud every day to children, beginning at birth.

A brain-imaging study at a Cincinnati medical center showed that reading to preschool children at home is associated with the activation of brain areas that support mental imagery and narrative.

When I was in Junior Auxiliary, we all were responsible for coming up with a service project. Mine was Head Start on Reading. We bought a book for every child in Head Start in Conway — the first year it was Green Eggs and Ham — and signed up to read to the children.

The idea of giving children a new book, especially some who might not have a single book in their homes, thrilled me.

Reading to children isn’t just a nice thing to do; it’s important. They’re learning vocabulary words, all kinds of other great things, not to mention bonding with whomever is reading to him or her.

I’ve already started a library for my granddaughter, Kennedy, who’s due in May. She has several classics: Pat the Bunny, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and more. Plus, I kept just about every book her daddy and her uncle ever had, so she will have lots of choices.

I took a picture of the paragraph of the column on reading to children and texted it to my son, who will soon be a daddy.

I told him I know he and my daughter-in-law will be great at this.

He’s way ahead of me. He texted back and told me he is writing a book for Kennedy, and my daughter-in-law is illustrating it.

I’m so proud of them. They’re definitely doing it right.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or


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