As parents, we know deep down that reading is better for our children's brain than sitting in front of a screen. But now, the latest science out of the Reading & Literacy Discovery Center of Cincinnati's Children's Hospital shows actual brain scans showing that this is true.
In this article by Sandee LaMotte, images from the study show that the brains of preschoolers frequently read to by their caregivers have more established and organized white matter in the literacy centers of the brain. In contrast, children who spent several hours per day playing on or watching screens had a disorganized mass of white matter and showed underdevelopment in the same areas.
While the brain can grow and develop at any age, it is particularly malleable in the first five years of life. The brain makes connections at this early age which are then either strengthened (becoming neural pathways) or discarded by lack of use (called neural pruning).
The richness reading provides--personal connection, visual interest, diverse vocabulary, new ideas--strengthens neural pathways in children more than screen time (even educational screen time!) does.
No parent is perfect and our children are bombarded by screens. But it's worth a moment to think about how to incorporate reading time into our everyday routines--before bedtime? After lunch? Saturday reading party?
And by the way, infants and very young children benefit from reading as well, even when (you think) they have no idea what's going on. Set up reading traditions with your children from birth. After all, the more we can read, sing, and talk to our children the better.
Check out the article for more about the importance of white matter and other findings from the study.