From “Counting Kisses” to “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” and from “The Cat in the Hat” to “Where the Wild Things Are,” the books that were read to you as a child have a special place in your memories. But there’s more to snuggling up on Mom or Dad’s lap while he or she reads to you than you may realize. Being read to expands a child’s imagination, vocabulary and ability to understand abstract concepts. It actually helps the brain grow, and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has the MRIs to prove it.
They scanned the brains of 19 3- to 5-year-olds and found that those children whose parents read to them often had much more active and developed areas of the brain where you comprehend language and create mental images. That development allows an easy transition from picture books to text-based books.
It’s well-documented that a young child’s mental development increases the more parents talk to him or her. Kids need to hear words (not baby talk) and be spoken to directly from the very beginning of life. By 18 months, kids who are not spoken to very often are already falling behind in verbal skills. So talk to your children; read to them and make up stories together. And if you don’t have a handy supply of kids’ books, ask friends to share the books their children have outgrown; go online to magickeys.com/books for free books; and check out children’s reading events at local bookstores and libraries.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit sharecare.com.