How reading affects children

Early childhood is a critical time for personal development. During this period, many intellectual, physical and emotional changes are taking place in a child's body at a rapid pace. Parents want to give their children the best opportunities for success in life, and encouraging children to read is one of the ways they can help youngsters develop intellectual and emotional maturity.

Data from the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development project, an American national cohort study with more than 10,000 participants across different ethnicities and varying socioeconomic statuses, found that reading for pleasure in early childhood was linked with better scores on comprehension cognition assessments and better educational attainment in young adolescence. It also correlated to fewer mental health problems and less time spent on electronic devices.

Reading is a learned activity, and reading early on with a child is a bonding activity between caregiver and child. The Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children says reading has the potential to increase academic achievement by improving vocabulary and learning comprehension. Interactive reading also helps increase mental imagery and language processing.

It's important to note that reading can positively affect the body physically as well. Children may experience less stress by reading, as reading is thought to be even more calming than listening to music or even taking a walk.

In a study published in the journal Psychological Medicine, researchers in the UK and China found that 12 hours of reading a week was the optimal time linked to improved brain structure and good brain health. When researchers examined brain scans from those who had been reading from an early age, the scans showed moderately larger total brain areas and volumes, including in regions of the brain responsible for roles in critical cognitive functions.

"It's widely accepted that [reading] inspires creativity, increases empathy and reduces stress," says professor Barbara Sahakian from the University of Cambridge.

Reading is a skill that children should begin to enjoy at an early age. Parents can introduce reading to their children by reading to them, and then supporting children's efforts at independent reading. 


The Drummer and The Wright County Journal Press

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