07/15/14 — Pediatrician wants parents to 'power down'

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Pediatrician wants parents to 'power down'

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 15, 2014 1:46 PM

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Dr. David Tayloe reads with his patient Skylar Pate, 18 months, during a checkup at Goldsboro Pediatrics. Tayloe leads an initiative for parents to put down the technology and instead read and talk with their children. Tayloe has a practice of giving all his patients a free book with each checkup from 6 months to 5 years.

Pediatrician Dave Tayloe wants to give his patients more than a diagnosis and treatment during an office visit.

He hopes to also ensure children have a long and healthy future.

So when he started seeing alarming statistics of low reading scores among third- and fourth-graders, he said he investigated further, meeting with school officials to discuss why.

"There are kids getting to kindergarten who are not ready to read, and they really struggle," Dr. Tayloe said. "There are the teachers that have seen miracles -- coming in from low-income situations and taking off in reading. We don't want to throw water on that."

Poor reading skills among children are a problem in this community, he said, but poverty is not the only culprit.

Technology also shares a piece of the blame, he said. When the TV's running and the smartphones and laptops are vying for attention, there's a "real force" pulling caretakers away from children.

"What we have learned is that from birth, the more face-to-face time these children get from loving caretakers, the better they gain," he said.

It's easy enough to use TV as a baby-sitter or put advanced technology in the child's hands and believe it will stimulate the brain and help them learn quicker or better. But Tayloe wants to change that line of thinking

"There's not been one study that shows any of this technology improves early brain development," he said. "We're not trying to come down on interactive use of technology. (Children) just don't need to be doing their own thing with technology.

"We want your child reading proficiently by fourth grade, and the only way you're going to get that is by talking with your child face-to-face."

Early brain development starts at birth and is enhanced by how many words that child hears, but not indirectly or from a screen.

"Just keeping a steady train of conversation going with the baby as if you're broadcasting to the world that's what happened," Tayloe suggests. "The baby needs to hear human conversation and as the baby becomes responsive, which is usually about two months, what they call serve and return, that interaction between human beings matures the brain."

The most popular technique is for the parent to describe everything going on around them -- picking them up, preparing their meals, feeding them, changing their diapers, dressing them, going about daily activities, getting them ready for naps and bedtime.

Tayloe recommends turning off all TVs and other technology when babies and young children are awake and concentrate on creating opportunities to talk face-to-face with young children.

A community forum next month will explore the concept further and kick off a communitywide initiative.

"Baby Talk: Teaching Babies and Young Children to Talk" will be held Aug. 14 at the Paramount Theatre. The free event is open to the public and will begin at 7 p.m.

Richard Thompson, interim executive director for the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching, will be featured guest speaker, along with Sen. Louis Pate Jr. and Dr. Tayloe.