Dear Leanna: I'm a new mom curious about the benefit of reading to my baby daughter. My mother thinks it's really important to read to her each night, but I want to take a more Zen approach because my daughter will experience the pressures of school soon enough. Anyway,haven't DNA discoveries shown that intelligence is really in the genes?

Answer: DNA discoveries have not proven that intelligence is wholly genetically determined. Sure, genetic factors influence a child's development, but they're not the whole ballgame.

Take a look at a recent book, "Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schoolsand Culture Count" (W.W. Norton). Author Richard Nisbett, a University of Michigan psychology professor, uses layman's language to dismantle the theory that intelligence is all in the genes.

When it comes to school success, "research in psychology and neuroscience suggests that about half of parents' influence is genetic and the other half is nurture," says Bill Jackson, founder of, an organization that encourages parents to become involved in their children's education.

"Studies show that parents can effectively teach character traits such as willpower, self-discipline and the ability to delay gratification. These traits correlate more strongly with high achievement and goal attainment than IQ."

Dorothy Rich, the late founder of the Home and School Institute, called these traits megaskills, and urged parents to focus on 12: confidence,motivation, effort, responsibility, initiative, perseverance, caring, teamwork, common sense, problem-solving, focus/concentration and respect. Her book, "MegaSkills" (Sourcebook), outlines concrete activities to help develop them.

Jackson adds that parents boost academic achievement when they cultivate a belief in the importance of hard work, instead of emphasizing talent.

"Children who value effort as a part of their outlook are likely to try harder when faced with challenges. One study found that kids whose parents praised them for their efforts chose more challenging work and stay focused longer than kids praised for their intelligence."

About those bedtime books? The development of literacy skills begins at birth with your singing, rhyming, repeating, talking — and yes, reading to your daughter. These activities help her develop an interest in sounds,words, listening, and even begin to give her a sense of story.

Sure,she may chew up the books, but when you read to her regularly, neuroscientists believe you're starting to hard-wire the brain for language development. This is the cornerstone of all literacy.


Source: Detroit Free Press –