In her new guest post, Parenting & Education Writer Rhonda Cratty discusses how reading is good for kids and parents alike.
Research shows that reading has an extensive impact on brain function and can actually affect understanding in nearly all school subjects.
Neuroscientist Stanislaus Dehaene conducted research on the brain function of Portuguese-speaking Brazilian adults, both those who had learned to read and those who were illiterate. Dehaene chose Brazil because of its lack of compulsory education laws. The adults were matched for socioeconomic status so the results would not be biased by educational or income level.
Martha Burns, an associate professor at Northwestern University and a speech and language pathologist, recently examined Dehaene’s studies. “A person who is a reader actually listens better,” said Burns. “They actually listen to speech and process speech faster and in more detail.”
Dehaene then proceeded to teach the illiterate adults to read, and found astonishing results… “Their brains changed dramatically in the same way the literate adults who had read their whole lives changed. Their visual perceptual skills improved, their auditory listening skills improved, and their ability to drive this whole left hemisphere symbolic problem-solving way of syncing changed,” Burns said.
According to a study published in the journal Neuron, “intensive instruction to improve reading skills in young children causes the brain to physically rewire itself, creating new white matter that improves communication within the brain.”
The brain, just like any muscle, benefits from a good workout. Reading is neurobiologically demanding. As you’re absorbing, say, this article, parts of your brain are working out with vision, language, producing narrative, imagining, inferring and learning—all connected in a specific neural circuit for reading, and all a very challenging brain workout. Typically, when you read, you have more time to think. Reading gives you a unique pause button for comprehension and insight.
The benefits of reading include keeping your memory sharp, learning capacity agile and your mind stronger as you age. Print should take up part of your child’s life too. There is richness that reading gives your family. Let this year be the year your family would rather be reading.
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