Children who start reading early have better memory, fewer symptoms of depression and fewer behavioral problems, a new study shows. Children who read also spent less time in front of screens.
In a new long-term US study, researchers examined how reading affects children’s brain development and overall health. More than 10,000 children aged nine to 13 took part in the study, with parents answering questions about their children’s daily activities, which included reading.
About half of the children started reading for pleasure early, somewhere between the ages of three and ten, while the rest did not read for pleasure or started reading later. The children who started reading early had several advantages in later years.
The children who read had much sharper memories and higher scores in speech development. They also had fewer behavioral problems and fewer symptoms of depression.
When researchers then looked at the children’s brain scans, they could see that there was a greater volume of tissue in the areas of the brain involved in reading, attention and behavior. This is thought to partly explain the benefits of early reading.
– Reading isn’t just a pleasurable experience — it’s widely accepted that it inspires thinking and creativity, increases empathy and reduces stress. But on top of this, we found significant evidence that it’s linked to important developmental factors in children, improving their cognition, mental health and brain structure, which are cornerstones for future learning and well-being, said Professor Barbara Sahakian in a university press release.
Children who started reading earlier also spent less time in front of various screens and slept better compared to children who read less.
Another recent study showed that reading for pleasure can improve memory in older people.