Everyone is familiar with the "three Rs": Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. This phrase has long been used to describe the essential components of education – the three skill areas that all subsequent learning is built upon.
But there is another phrase that we wish were just as familiar: Touch, Talk, Read, Play, or TTRP. These represent the most important activities that parents share with their babies and toddlers, and when it comes to learning, they are just as important as the three Rs.
According to The Urban Child Institute, the way that a baby's brain develops means that early experiences like these have a remarkable influence on later abilities and achievement. During the first three years of life, the brain is wiring itself, creating the connections and networks that support all future development. Efficient connections depend on early positive experiences.
Touch, Talk, Read and Play promote early language, emotional, and social skills that contribute to school readiness. The more that children are read to, for instance, the more likely they are to excel in school. Research has also established a link between academic performance in school and the amount of words that a child hears from birth to age three.
In other words, long before a child masters reading, writing, and arithmetic, the foundation for these later skills is already being constructed. Without early shared experiences centered around TTRP, a child is likely to have difficulty when it's time for the three Rs.
It's never too soon for parents to begin equipping their young children with the basic tools that will help them succeed in school and throughout life. Even in infancy, shared book reading is associated with later language skills. Babies benefit from hearing a larger variety of words than they hear in parents' everyday speech, and also from the physical and emotional closeness of sharing a book together.
Between a child's first and second birthdays, his ability to comprehend and communicate begins to flourish. Shared reading builds his vocabulary, stimulates his imagination, and teaches concepts like cause and effect. Incorporating story time into a child's daily or nightly routine is a simple way that parents can help to chart the course for future success and minimize learning challenges that far too many students experience.
Even if you do not have children of your own, you can do your part to ensure that all young children in our community have an equal chance to succeed. Take advantage of volunteer opportunities to read to a classroom, or donate books to a school or childcare center that needs them. A small act of kindness is all it takes to make a big difference.
Every child is different, and every family has its own parenting style and daily routines. But shared reading is a positive activity that benefits all children.
Noted author Dr. Seuss said it best: "You're never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child."