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Study: Kids Get Brain Boost from Summer Reading

Engaging children in reading promotes brain growth. (
Engaging children in reading promotes brain growth. (
July 7, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Experts have long recommended children be introduced to reading as early as possible - and now, new researchcan help parents make story times even more beneficial for their little ones.

An international study headed by researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found greater brain activation in four-year-olds when they are "highly engaged" during reading time.

Dr. John Hutton, a pediatrician and clinical researcher for the Reading and Literacy Discovery Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, explains that means asking them questions and getting them more involved in reading - which he says works like a "turbo charge" for the brain.

"Kids that are read to more from a younger age and whose parents get excited about reading, and really interact with them in a loving and nurturing way, are more likely to teach their kids that reading is a fun thing, and something they really want to pay attention to and that they really want to do," he explains.

The study suggests parents develop a reading routine that allows them to spend quality time with their child and a book on a daily basis. That also means turning off the cell phone, which Hutton says is the most common preventable barrier to a quality story time.

To better engage a child and build their interest in reading, Hutton recommends parents read the words on the page and then, ask simple questions.

"If you are reading about a dog, say, 'Oh, we have a dog, do you think our dog would like to do this?' and, you know, 'What's grandma's dog's name?'" he says. "And the more that happens, the more kids feel involved in the process, the more they're going to practice their language skills and they're going to want to do it more. So, the more interactive, the better."

He notes there is no perfect reading experience. What's important, he says, is creating a routine at home, making it fun, and beginning as early as possible.

"A lot of parents will say, 'Well, what can my baby do, you know?" Hutton notes. "They don't understand yet, they're not talking yet.' And it's really just getting the child on the lap, opening the book, letting them hold the book. And then for the little babies, it's going to be mostly about that feeling of connecting with the parents, with the book."

Hutton adds that long-term studies are needed with very young children to better understand the parent-child connection to healthy brain development and literacy skills.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL