A good education begins at home, long before kindergarten, according to a new MRI study. While anecdotal evidence is in agreement (many parents have made this claim!) there has never before been a scientific study correlating early childhood reading sessions with future literary success, until now.
The findings of the study, entitled Parent-Child Reading Increases Activation of Brain Networks Supporting Emergent Literacy in in 3-5 Year Old Children: an fMRI Study, were presented in San Diego on April 25 at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS).
“We are excited to show, for the first time, that reading exposure during the critical stage of development prior to kindergarten seems to have a meaningful, measurable impact on how a child’s brain processes stories and may help predict reading success,” said Dr. John Hutton, an author of the study and director of the Literacy Discovery Center at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “Of particular importance are brain areas supporting mental imagery, helping the child ‘see the story’ beyond the pictures, affirming the valuable role of imagination.”
For the study, the researchers recruited 19 healthy children aged 3-5, of whom 37 per cent were from low-income households. The primary caregiver of each child completed a questionnaire which measured: parent-child reading, parent-child interaction and parent-child teaching (where the parent would actually teach the child specific skills such as naming colours or shapes).
The results showed that children who received more at-home reading exposure experienced higher activation in areas of the brains associated with semantic processing (the ability to identify meanings from sounds).