New studies show good reading does to toddler’s brain


I loved reading to my boy when he was little. From the very first days after we brought him home from the hospital, he was on my lap and I was reading to him. His room looked like the children’s section of a library.

I always figured it had to do him some good. At the very least, it would make him a lifelong reader, like it did me. (Yes, it worked!)

It’s not like I came with up with this on my own, however. The experts always have known reading to young children is good for them. What they couldn’t explain was the mechanics behind it all. Now two new studies have shown just how good reading to little ones is for their brains and what all is going on, according to a New York Times story.

Turns out a lot of very complex things ares happening when you snuggle up with a child and read aloud, says Dr. Perri Klass, well-known pediatrician and longtime advocate of reading to children. She is the author of the NYT’s piece.

One of the studies looked at the brain activity of toddlers (ages 3-5) while someone was reading to them. The amount of brain activity varied depending on how much time was spent reading to them, the researchers discovered. There was more activity with those whose parents or caretakes read to them, particularly in one region of the brain, which usually occurs later, when children read books to themselves. This study shows it happens when they are younger as well and when someone else is doing the reading, according to Klass. Basically it shows that when young children are listening to a story they also are visualizing it in their heads, something that wasn’t known before, Klass says.

The researchers think kids who have this ability at a young age are ahead of the game when it comes to making images and stories of their own out of words.

Researchers already knew that reading to children expands their vocabulary. But the second study Klass wrote about also determined that the storybooks being read to toddlers expose young ones to words they aren’t hearing elsewhere, thus  bringing even more words into their vocabulary.  (This immediately reminds me of the word “newel post” that was in one of my son’s ABC books. Certainly that is not a term I would have spoken to him!)

So, turn off that TV (sorry, studies show visualization of words on TV doesn’t have the same positive impact) and cuddle up with your little one with a book. What you’re doing for the development of their brain is pretty amazing.

And here’s some added bonuses: you’ll always have a way to calm them down and when they do get to school, they will know what behavior is expected of them when it’s storybook time.

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