A study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics magazine, Pediatricians showed that reading to children biologically alters their brains, setting the stage for improved language and literacy skill development. Children who are read to at home have greater brain activity in areas regulating narrative comprehension and visual imagery that those who are not.
Researcher and director of general and community paediatrics at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Dr. Thomas DeWitt, said that the study was a "small and very early one" but that the "exciting thing it was able to demonstrate is that early reading does have an impact on the parts of the brain that are fundamental for developing literacy early on. It's biological evidence that transcends empirical studies."
Researchers studied the brains of 19 children aged three to five, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. Their brains were scanned while listening to a recoding of a story and again while listening to only background noise. In addition, parents were asked to provide information about home reading environments, such as the frequency the children were read to and what types of books they read. The study found that children from more stimulating reading environments had more brain activity than others. It's so far unclear if the identity of the person reading to the child plays a role or not. DeWitt said that question requires a larger study to answer, but is one he hopes to address.
Still, the current findings are exciting biological evidence of the importance of early literacy - proving that reading does help develop the growing mind.