Is it possible that reading to children can make a difference in behavior, academic performance, and brain activity? According to a new study, the answer is yes.
In the study, researchers observed children ages 3 to 5 undergoing brain scans called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while listening to a pre-recorded story. Their parents also answered questions as to how much they read and communicated with their child.
They found that while the children were being read the story, portions of the left part of the brain became active–the same brain regions that are active when older children listen or read stories. These areas are involved in understanding the meaning of words and concepts, and also memory.
Even more compelling, brain activity in this region was higher among the children whose parents proclaimed involving literacy activities in their home.
“The more you read to a child the more you help the neurons in this region to grow and connect in a way that will benefit the child in the future in reading,” Tzipi Horowitz-Kraus, program director of the Reading and Literacy Discovery Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and one of the authors of the study, told CNN.
This just adds to the body of research that already shows the benefits of reading for young children, and isn’t likely to surprise any educators. But, as the study’s authors note, showing physical brain changes is just another finding to buoy the argument for early literacy efforts.