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Study: Reading to young children helps spur brain development, reading skills

Most parents and teachers know full well by now how important it is to read to kids when they're young, but a new study puts these benefits in a clearer perspective, drawing a direct link from reading to children to an increase in their brain development activity and later adoption of reading skills.

That study, spearheaded by Dr. John Hutton of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, monitored 19 preschoolers between the ages of three and five as they were read stories to and simultaneously underwent MRI scans. The researchers found that reading to children sparked activity in the areas of the brain that govern speech, reading skills and mental imagery. This latter point indicates that in order to better understand the stories they listen to and parse meaning from the narratives, children rely heavily on visualization to picture a story in their heads.

As Hutton explains, this is an important development that helps facilitate a child's eventual graduation from picture books to solely text-based books, ensuring that he or she is then capable of imagining and understanding what is happening in a story on his or her own when there aren't any accompanying images.

Although conventional wisdom has dictated the importance of reading to help foster brain development in children, these findings mark the first measurable instance where a child's cognitive growth and later reading skills can be attributed to whether or not he or she was read to during their pre-K years. It should be noted, though, that this does not conclusively prove a direct cause-and-effect link between the two, though it does lend further weight to there being a strong association.

Early child care professionals looking to learn more about early brain development in infants and toddlers are encouraged to make use of ProSolutions' landmark course, "Brain Development: Amazing Brains, Amazing Babies." We also offer online child care training services to help you become equipped for teaching and caring for children.