From the Illinois Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics’ Fall, 2015, Child Development Newsletter
The journal Pediatrics recently published a study using functional magnetic resonance imaging to study brain activity in children between the ages of three and five as they listened to age-appropriate stories.
Researchers found differences in brain activation according to how much the children had been read to at home in the parietal-temporal-occipital-association cortex, which is responsible for multi-sensory integration, integrating sound and then visual stimulation. Children who were exposed to more books and home reading showed significantly more activity in the areas of the brain that process visual association even though they were just listening to stories and could not see any pictures.
Dr. John Hutton, the lead author of the study, said “When kids are hearing stories, they’re imagining in their mind’s eye when they hear the story. The different levels of brain activation suggest that children who have more practice in developing the images as they look at picture books and listen to stories may develop skills that will help them make images and stories out of words later on. It will help them later be better readers because they’ve developed that part of the brain that helps them see what is going on in the story.”
So, reading picture books with young children may mean that they not only hear more words, but at the same time their brains practice creating the images associated with these words and with the more complex sentences and rhymes that make up even simple stories.