Many parents read to their children - before bed, in the afternoon and even at doctors' appointments as a source of comfort.

Q: I want to make sure that my child is well-prepared when he begins school, and that he is developing the way he should be. What is a simple way to boost development?

A: Many parents read to their children - before bed, in the afternoon and even at doctors' appointments as a source of comfort. However, reading does so much more than comfort your child. Learning begins at birth, and one of the best things parents can do to stimulate their child's development is to read to them. If you have concerns about the progress of your child's development, always consult your child's pediatrician.

Reading to children helps form connections in their developing brains and encourages the development of cognitive skills that will help them achieve reading success when they begin school. Research shows that the first five years of life offer a vital learning window - 90 percent of a child's brain is formed within that time period, and more than 700 new neural connections are formed every second.

The more parents speak and read to their children, the greater the size of their vocabulary, which translates to a strong foundation of language and the development of cognitive skills fundamental for kindergarten-age learning. It is important that when entering kindergarten, children have developed an awareness of letters and their sounds, which way to hold a book and that the words in the book go along with the pictures.

-Dr. Nicole V. Caldwell is an ambulatory clinic physician with Nationwide Children's Hospital.