Parents should start reading out loud to their children every day, starting in infancy, pediatricians in the U.S. advise in a new policy statement.

Reading every day to children can help enhance their brain development and prepare babies' minds for early language, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in the statement it issued Tuesday.

"Reading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development, which, in turn, builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime," the statement reads.

This is the AAP's first official policy statement on early reading, which it says it created to urge pediatricians and policymakers to make books available for families -- especially those living in poverty.

The doctors' group is teaming up with the Clinton Foundation's Too Small to Fail program to help promote reading. The partnership also includes children's book publisher Scholastics Inc., and Reach out and Read, which works with doctors and hospitals to distribute books and encourage early reading.

"This partnership will help pediatricians share messages and tools with parents about the importance of talking, reading and singing to children in order to close the word gap," the group said.

The AAP added that they have created a pediatric toolkit that will be distributed to health care providers across the U.S. and Scholastic will be donating more than 500,000 books to include in the kit.

More than 1 in three American children begin kindergarten without the language skills they need to learn to read, the AAP says. Children from low-income families hear fewer words in early childhood and know fewer words by age 3 than do children from more advantaged families, they add.

As well, approximately two-thirds of children in the U.S. -- and 80 per cent of those living below the poverty line -- fail to develop reading proficiency by the end of Grade 3.

"Reading proficiency by the third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success," the group said.

The Canadian Paediatric Society issued its own position statement on early literacy in 2006. That statement calls on pediatricians to encourage parents to look at books with their children daily from birth, as well as encourages them to get a library card and visit the library regularly.

The CPS says that exposing babies to books and to reading increases their vocabulary and makes it easier for them to learn to read later on.

"Just as important, sharing books provides babies and children with warm and nurturing interactions with the adults they care about," they write.

And it’s never too late to start daily reading sessions if parents haven’t done so in the past, says Dr. Leigh Anne Newhook, of the Canadian Pediatric Society.

“At any age it’s beneficial, but the earlier, the better,” Newhook said in an interview with CTV’s News Channel Tuesday.

Newhook also says physicians should inform parents of the benefits of reading.

“I think physicians can also provide books to low-income families, and also make sure their waiting room is literacy-friendly,” she said.