Reading books to children boosts their brain

IANS . New York | Update:

Parents, please take some time out from your busy schedule to read books to your kids and also engage them in the process. Researchers have found that engaging with children while reading books to them gives their brain a cognitive boost.

An important point to note is that while reading to children has many benefits, simply speaking the words aloud may not be enough to improve cognitive development in preschoolers, according to the study.

The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, reinforce the value of “dialogic reading,” where the child is encouraged to actively participate.

“The takeaway for parents in this study is that they should engage more when reading with their child, ask questions, have them turn the page, and interact with each other,” said lead author of the study John Hutton, a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre in the US.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) found significantly greater brain activation in four-year-old children who were more highly engaged during story listening, suggesting a novel improvement mechanism of engagement and understanding.

“In turn, this could fuel brain activation—or ‘turbocharge’ the development of literacy skills, particularly comprehension, in preschool-aged children,” Hutton said.

The study involved functional MRI scans of 22 girls, age 4, to explore the relationship between engagement and verbal interactivity during a mother-child reading observation and neural activation and connectivity during a story listening task.

Children exhibiting greater interest in the narrative showed increased activation in right-sided cerebellar areas of the brain, thought to support cognitive skill acquisition and refinement via connection to language, association and executive function areas.

“Our findings underscore the importance of interventions explicitly addressing both parent and child reading engagement, including awareness and reduction of distractions such as cellphones, which were the most common preventable barrier that we observed,” Hutton said.

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