How and what you read to baby can impact brain development

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While talking to them is important for their development, reading to baby out loud can open the doors for faster cognitive learning. Here's how.

You may have heard that reading to baby supports his growth and development. It also helps him develop language skills at a much faster rate. Now, a study shows the link between reading to babies and brain development, and the results are pretty amazing.

Reading to Babies and Brain Development

study proved that reading to baby from infancy can result in specialised brain responses. This means that if you read to your six-month-old, he will be able to better differentiate between faces and species, for example. 

The study — in a way — proves that it is not just what’s on the pages, but the book reading experience itself that helps with these responses.  

But does this mean that while reading to baby you can use any book? And should books for infants be different from books for toddlers? A study by the University of Florida’s Brain Cognition and Development Lab (BCDL) worked to find answers for these queries.

To further examine the link between reading to babies and brain development, researchers at BCDL also looked at reading to baby aloud, or shared book reading.

Reading to baby aloud can benefit your bub

Interestingly, the lab found that  shared book reading had many benefits for babies. These include the following. 

1. Faster language and cognitive development 

The BCDL study took notes from another research by the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). 

That study uncovered that reading to baby aloud or book sharing can help in language and cognitive development. It also increases a child’a vocabulary as well his pre-reading skills. In addition, this activity is also beneficial in conceptual development. 

2. Enhancement of parent-child relationship 

The BCDL research quoted another study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in their study. This WHO study stated that reading to baby aloud helps to enhance the parent-child relationship. 

It encourages interpersonal communication and gives parents a daily dose of cuddles with their children. 

3. Enhances reading and writing abilities 

The study also took notes from another research by the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine. This particular research proves that the quality and quantity of shared book reading greatly benefits a child’s vocabulary. 

It also enhances his reading and writing skills in the future. So basically, the more books you read to your baby in his early months, the better his languages skills will get in the future. 

reading to babies and brain development

Reading to babies and brain development: The books you should read to your six-month-old will be different from those you read to your two-year-old. | Image courtesy: Pixabay

While the studies proved that reading to baby aloud does in fact, benefit his cognitive and language skills, the question is: which books should you read? 

Reading to baby: Here’s are the books you should pick up

During their investigations, the BCDL researchers found that the type of books you read to your baby are as important as how much you read to them. 

  • If you show books with faces, and objects to your infants, they will show specialised brain responses in the future. But if you show them books with no labels or generic books with just images and a word to describe them, it might not be that impactful. 
  • Babies who are read to from books with individual labels (where each image is described by words), were able to distinguish between individual characters. For instance, for a dog, the book described: “This is Harry. He can wiggle his tail and run fast.”
  • The BCLD study also found that young infants were able to learn a lot more about their environment through those labelled books. It also helped in their overall development during their first year. 

Reading to Babies and Brain Development: What parents must bear in mind

This study is a great reminder of the impact of reading to baby, and the important relationship between reading to babies and brain development. The only thing that parents such as you and I need to remember is that not all books are created equal. Here are a few takeaways. 

  • The books you should read to your six-month-old will be different from those you read to your two-year-old. 
  • While reading to baby, you should opt for books that label characters and give them individual names as opposed to generic terms like “cat” or “dog.”
  • Make sure to purchase books that your child likes to see and touch and hear from.  
  • If you bought a book that has no individual labels, then create some on your own. Give the characters interesting names. 

Remember that while talking to babies is important for their development, shared book reading can open the doors for faster cognitive learning. 

Sources: The Conversation, Scientific American, MIT Press Journal

ALSO READ: Teaching toddlers to read: A comprehensive guide for parents

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Written by

Deepshikha Punj