Brain scans reveal that pre-schoolers whose parents read to them regularly show more activity in key areas of their brains.

Reading to young children is well known to have benefits, including better language skills. And experts already urge parents to have a regular story time with their kids, starting at birth. Research findings offer hard evidence that frequent and regular reading to children feeds youngsters’ brain development.

“It’s often said that reading builds brains,” said study leader Dr John Hutton, of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre. “That seems obvious, but you want to show that it’s actually true.” So Hutton’s team used functional MRI scans to measure real-time brain activity in children aged 3 to 5 years, as they listened to stories. Parents were interviewed about “cognitive stimulation” at home, including how often they read to their children. Based on their responses, the number ranged from two nights a week to every night.

Overall, Hutton’s team found, the more often children had story time at home, the more brain activity they showed while listening to stories in the research lab. The difference was seen in a brain region involved in so-called semantic processing — the ability to extract meaning from words. There was “particularly robust” activity, the researchers said, in areas where mental images are formed from what is heard.

Reading to children also sparks their imaginations. “When children listen to stories, they have to put it all together in their mind’s eye,” Hutton explained. Reading to children is far more beneficial than watching TV. Brandon Korman, chief of neuro-psychology at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital states that when a child is listening to a story, rather than sitting passively in front of a screen, the brain is in a “more active” state. Some researchers have voiced concerns that if young children spend too much time on devices, that could take away from human interactions that teach them about empathy, problem-solving and other critical life lessons.

So parents, do spend special time – any time of day, any place but every day – in telling stories and reading to your little ones right from the time they are born. Even if tiny baby doesn’t yet understand the words, he will love the sound of your voice and the language she hears will form the building blocks of her own language abilities and ability to speak. Remember the early years are the most important period in life for brain development! And besides this, storytelling and reading time is a precious time of shared pleasure and building a strong, loving relationship with your little one.

It’s not just a nice thing to do with your child, it’s important for their cognitive, social and emotional development!

REFERENCE: American Academy of Pediatrics

Learn more about what you can do to change your child’s future by listening weekly to LOVE, PLAY TALK, the radio programme on Nkomazi FM aired EVERY Thursday from 11 to 11.30am and brought to you by Ilifa Labantwana and RCL FOODS. Each week Nkomazi FM hosts a guest speaker to deal with a different topic to support you, the parent of a young child, give your child the best start in life. The LOVE, PLAY, TALK radio programme is part of the RCL FOODS sponsored LEAVE NO YOUNG CHILD BEHIND early childhood development initiative in Nkomazi Wards 16 and 19 that aims to ensure every young child in these wards has access to improved quality of essential services so that they get the very best start in life. And you, the parent, have a critically important role to play!

Get more information from the Nkomazi FM website or the Ilifa Labantwana website . Do listen every week and give your little one the best start in life!


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