October 19, 2012

Reading to four-year-old kids will help them in their teens, according to new study


Four-year-old brains are very sensitive. Reading to them has lasting benefits.

New research presented at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting last weekend suggests that the brain is particularly sensitive and receptive to a stimulating environment at age four.

“An early childhood surrounded by books and educational toys will leave positive fingerprints on a person’s brain well into their late teens,” the Guardian reported this week.

In a study by neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers visited the homes of children at age 4 and age 8. They looked at how much warmth and attention they received from their parents, how many books were in the homes, and whether they played with real or toy musical instruments.

According to MRI scans of the children’s brains, the level of stimulation when they were 4 had  much more of an effect on their brain development as compared to the impact of an engaging environment once the children had turned 8. The researchers concluded that mental activities at a young age “increases the extent to which synaptic pruning occurs in the lateral temporal lobe,” which has lasting benefits in terms of language and cognition into the next decade and beyond.

So in other words: if you read books like Miss Rumphius, Mr Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Jenny and the Cat Club, or Eloise to  little kids, they will have a thinner cortex when they get older and will be able to process information easier.



Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.