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Parent Child Reading and Story Time Promote Brain Development Prior to Kindergarten

​In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement recommending parent-child home reading beginning at birth and continuing at least through kindergarten. Behavioral evidence has shown that children who are read to, especially before school entry, experience stronger parent-child relationships and learn valuable language and literacy skills. In a new study in the September 2015 Pediatrics, “Home Reading Environment and Brain Activation in Preschool Children Listing to Stories,” (published online Aug. 10), authors studied 3- to 5-year old children for the first time to examine the relationship between shared parent-child reading and brain activity. Participants underwent a functional MRI scan while listening to age-appropriate, pre-recorded stories read in a female voice through headphones. Results showed a strong, positive association between a measure of home reading environment (involving access to books, frequency of reading, and variety of books read) and brain activation during story listening. Children from more stimulating home reading environments had greater activity in brain areas supporting narrative comprehension and visual imagery, which are important for both language and reading. These findings reinforced AAP literacy recommendations, specifically the claim that reading exerts a positive effect on the developing brain. Children who enter kindergarten with poor emergent literacy skills are at a significant disadvantage and are unlikely to catch up with their peers if not addressed early. The authors hope that these findings will help guide early interventions that enhance cognitive stimulation in the home through reading, resulting in improved academic achievement and overall health.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 64,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. (