By JANICE HARRIS
HANDING your preschooler your mobile phone or iPad to keep them amused while you are busy could be holding them back from reaching important literacy milestones in their formative years, according to Orange speech therapists.
Speech therapists at Orange Health Service (OHS) say they are now seeing preschoolers who have never held a book, had a book read to them or don’t know how to turn pages sequentially, with parents using television, iPads and iPhones as an alternative to reading and communicating with their children.
To reinforce the importance of reading to preschoolers from the age of six months, this week during Speech Pathology Week, therapists are giving a children’s book to every preschool child in a waiting room at the hospital.
OHS speech pathologist manager Jane deBruyn and her team are urging parents to put their mobile phones and iPads away and pick up a book to read to their preschoolers, saying allowing young children too much access to screens is impairing their learning ability.
Ms deBruyn said as a benchmark a child needed to be exposed to 1000 books before they started school to be ready for the formal literacy learning process at school.
“That may seem like a lot of books but it is less than one book a day in the years leading to the start of school,” she said.
“Research shows children do not learn anything from watching TV before the age of three.”
Paediatric speech therapist Ally Berry said parents could start reading to their babies from the age of six months with research showing even at this young age children respond to reading.
She said parents should also be encouraged to put away the DVD players on trips in the car, as they don’t help children develop good communication or literacy skills, or help them engage with their surroundings.
“Even getting back to old-fashioned games like ‘I Spy’ while you are in the car can help increase interaction between a parent and child,” Ms Berry said.
Yesterday therapists hosted a Mad Hatter’s tea party at the hospital and dressed as their favourite characters from Alice in Wonderland to highlight the importance of children’s books to preschoolers.
Orange’s speech therapists are keen to hear from any parent who has a concern about their child’s development and the service can be contacted on 6369 3300.