Shared Reading and Media Exposure in Infants: Preliminary Findings from the ReadNPlay Initiative

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The obesity problem in the U.S. is of epidemic proportions and affects even the youngest members of society. For instance, 10% percent of U.S. infants have excess weight for length, and early onset of obesity incites later risk. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Communications and Media has linked media exposure to obesity as well as sleep, behavior issues, inattention, and decreased parent-child interaction in young children. Further, the AAP concludes that no known health benefits exist for media exposure in children under 2 and discourage use in this age range. Reading has been shown to increase secure attachment in infants and to increase the quality of parent-child interaction in addition to positive gains in child literacy. Additionally, two existing studies found that reading reduces screen time, thus serving as a healthy alternative to media exposure. Despite these findings, and the importance of anticipatory guidance in pediatric primary care for discussing shared reading, only 15% of pediatricians talk to families about media exposure. ReadNPlay for a Bright Future is a multi-disciplinary, multicomponent pilot study and healthy weight promotion initiative for families with infants aged birth to 24 months to create health-promoting home environments, set goals, and monitor progress regarding reading and active play. The setting for this study is an academic pediatric primary care practice serving a primarily Caucasian, socio-economically disadvantaged population in Southern Appalachia, with involvement from pediatricians, nurses, and a behavioral health consultant. A novel communicative tool, the ReadNPlay Baby Book, along with provider training in brief motivational interviewing, posters, social media, and participation incentives (e.g., free children’s books) are being used to improve counseling on healthy active living behaviors during infant well child visits. The current research endeavor is focused on the Play More: Shut Off the Screens aspect of the ReadNPlay initiative and utilizes data from a baseline survey completed by 40 mothers with infants aged 9-12 months and 40 mothers with infants aged 13-24 months to assess trends in one form of media exposure, television watching, and reading in this population. While the AAP recommends that children under 2 years do not watch TV, mothers in this study reported that 80% of infants 9-12 months and 87% of infants 13-24 months watched at least 30 minutes on a typical day. Sixty percent of mothers of infants 9-12 months and 82.5% of mothers of infants 13-24 months reported reading 2013 Appalachian Student Research Forum Page 71 or looking at books with their child on most days of a typical week, perhaps as a result of an existing Reach Out and Read Initiative in the practice. The current study adds to the dearth of research regarding risk factors during infancy for future development of obesity. Future research may examine whether increases in reading time may decrease time spent in media exposure.


Johnson City, TN

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