Children get the most from story time when they do more than listen, a new study says

Posted at 5:38 PM, Jun 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-13 19:11:14-04

CINCINNATI -- Children benefit from being read to before they even begin to comprehend language, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Even in infancy, children whose parents read to them every day develop language skills earlier and bond more closely with their parents than those whose parents do not.

If you're already reading to your children, great job! But there's one thing you could be doing to make sure they get even more from story time. 

A new study led by Dr. John Hutton, a pediatrician and clinical researcher at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, shows that reading in an engaging way -- encouraging children to participate in the book by acting out the story, discussing plots and characters or defining words they see on the page -- is important for the child's developing mind.

The study had parents read "The Little Engine That Could" and then scored them on the level of engagement. It also conducted a functional MRI on those children.

According to Dr. Hutton, "active reading" stimulates the cerebellum, the part of the brain that supports language, function and memory.

"What the study showed is the kids with higher engagement scores were more likely to have that higher activation in those parts of the brain," Hutton said.

Sarah Jones, a children's book author and employee at Blue Manatee children's bookstore, reads to children at the Sleepy Bee in Oakley. She agreed that it is best to read to children in a more engaging way, such as acting it out.

"They really understand the story if they act it out themselves," Jones said.

After watching her read to children, she has even seen some parents follow her example.

"I notice after story time a lot of grown-ups reading to their little one in a really engaging, active way," Jones said.

Becky O'der often brings her almost two-year-old son August to story time at the Sleepy Bee. She said before she became a mother, she did not know that the way in which a parent reads to a child can be impactful.

"It's been great to see how they do it here and try at home to read the same way," O'der said.