Story Time Boosts Kids’ Brain Development, says Study

Researchers say it’s never too early to teach children that reading is fun. (Thomas life/Flickr)

Story time, even for the youngest of children, can add up to more than just great snuggle time.
An international study headed by researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that greater brain activation in 4-year-olds when they are “highly engaged” during reading time. Dr. John Hutton, a pediatrician and clinical researcher at the hospital’s Reading and Literacy Discovery Center, said that means asking them questions and getting them more involved in reading, which he said works like a “turbo charge” for the brain.
“Kids that are read to more from a younger age and whose parents get excited about reading, and really interact with them in a loving and nurturing way, are more likely to teach their kids that reading is a fun thing and something they really want to pay attention to and that they really want to do,” Hutton said.
The study suggested that parents develop a reading routine that allows them to spend quality time with their child and a book on a daily basis. That also means turning off cell phones, which Hutton said are the most common preventable barrier to a quality story time.
To better engage children and build their interest in reading, Hutton recommended that parents read the words on the page and then ask simple questions.
“If you are reading about a dog, say, ‘Oh, we have a dog. Do you think our dog would like to do this?’ and, you know, ‘What’s grandma’s dog’s name?’ And the more that happens, the more kids feel involved in the process, the more they’re going to practice their language skills and they’re going to want to do it more,” he said. “So, the more interactive, the better.”
Hutton noted that there is no perfect reading experience. What’s important, he said, is creating a routine at home, making it fun, and beginning as early as possible.
“A lot of parents will say, ‘Well, what can my baby do, you know? They don’t understand yet, they’re not talking yet.’ And it’s really just getting the child on the lap, opening the book, letting them hold the book,” he said. “And then for the little babies, it’s going to be mostly about that feeling of connecting with the parents, with the book.”
Hutton said long-term studies are needed with very young children to better understand the parent-child connection to healthy brain development and literacy skills.
The research is online at