Reading to young children helps develop their brains

June 27, 2017

Ever notice how children seem to light up when you read to them? Maybe what you’re seeing is neurons firing as you stimulate their brains.

Reading a variety of books to children on a frequent basis sparks physical activity in the brain – literally activating the sections of the brain that process words and form meaning.

A study from the American Academy of Pediatrics used MRI scans to track activity in preschoolers’ brains while they were listening to stories via headphones. The researchers saw greater activity in the sections of the brain that visualize a spoken story, and extract meaning from language.

“You’re never too young or too old to be read to,” says pediatrician Ben Flannery, MD. “Read your children a book every day.”

The easiest way to do that? “Make it part of the bedtime routine,” Dr. Flannery says. “Kids and schedules can become crazy, but they always have to go to bed eventually. You can read together then.”

Ninety percent of brain development occurs between birth and age 5. As a brain develops, its neural pathways are formed in sequence: sensory pathways first, then language, and finally higher cognitive pathways, according to Harvard University Center on the Developing Child.

Reading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development, which helps build strong pathways in the brain and in turn builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that can have life-long health benefits.

For more information or resources on how to read with your child, talk to your provider.

To make an appointment with Dr. Flannery, call 507-646-1494.