Read Stories to Your Kids – It Builds Their Brains!

By Shlomo Maital

childrens stories

   Among many “old fashioned” things now disappearing, are parents reading stories to their kids.  Dr. Parri Klass, writing in today’s Global New York Times, describes new research that shows we actually build kids’ brains when we read them stories.

    A year ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement saying all pediatric primary care should include “literacy promotion”, starting at birth!  Babies need stories, not just vaccines. This month, Klass reports, the journal Pediatrics published a study using FMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to study brain activity in 3-5 year old children as they listened to age-appropriate stories.  Children whose parents read a lot to them had more activity in a part of the brain that deals with integrating sound and visual stimulation.  Why?  “When kids are hearing stories, they’re imagining in their mind’s eye when they hear the story.”     Apparently, this will help kids make images and stories out of words later on.     It will also help stimulate creativity.

     “When we show them a video… do we short circuit the process [of imaginging things] a little?” asked a researcher. 

      A famous Kansas study found that poor children heard millions fewer words by age 3 than better-off kids.  They’re disadvantaged right from the start.

    Another study found that “children who are being read to by caregivers are hearing vocabulary words that kids who are not being read to probably are not hearing.” 

    A researcher, Dr. Hutton, concluded, “Early reading is more than just a nice thing to do with kids…    It really does have a very important role to play in building brain networks that will serve children long-term as they transition from verbal to reading.”

    But all this is a bit  beside the point.  Reading to kids and grandkids is simply a great source of joy and satisfaction.  And besides, when you do it, you get to read wonderful imaginative stories, like one I just bought, by Israeli author David Grossman, about “The Sun Princess”,  a little girl whose mother secretly makes the sun rise and set and who joins the process.    Now where can you find ‘adult’ books like that?