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The benefits of shared reading according to neuroscience

The benefits of shared reading according to neuroscience

Reading with your child is literally “brain-changing".

Innumerable studies have shown that shared reading between a child and an adult has many important benefits for children. Shared reading causes the firing of an immense number of neurons, creating new circuits and strengthening existing ones.

Studies have found that children who are exposed to strong reading environments at home develop larger neural circuits that support narrative comprehension. This process facilitates learning to read and write. [1] Shared reading is a clear case of biological embedding, a process in which the brain undergoes long-term physical changes in response to cognitive stimulation during early childhood.

Shared reading is so influential for the child that even modest increases of the activity are associated with improved brain function in the areas supporting literacy. The more engaged the child is during shared reading, the better, faster, and stronger the connections between neurons become. [2]

Children that are encouraged to engage with the adult reader in the form of questions and exchange of opinions can form stronger social-emotional connections between stories and their own life. In addition to all other benefits, sharing the reading experience with others increases the pleasure we gain from a story. [3]  

[1] Hutton, J., Horowitz-Kraus, T., Mendelsohn, A., DeWitt, T., Holland, T., the C-MIND Authorship Consortium, (2015).Home Reading Environment and Brain Activation in Preschool Children Listening to Stories. Pediatrics, 136(3).

[2] Hutton, J., Phelan, K., Horowitz-Kraus, T., Dudley, J., Altaye, M., DeWitt, T., and Holland, S. (2017). Story timeturbocharger? Child engagement during shared reading and cerebellar activation and connectivity in preschool-age children listening to stories. PLoS ONE, 12(5).

[3] Cremin, T., Mottram, M., Powell, S., Collins, R., & Safford, K. (2014). Building communities of engaged readers: Reading for pleasure. London: Routledge.

Deep Dive

Read our report on the Science of Reading. Research-based reading instruction must incorporate the 5 pillars of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. This report provides an easy to understand overview of each of these pillars and explains the important connection between how the brain learns to read (the Neuroscience of Reading) and how we teach children to read (The Science of Reading Instruction). It also explains why helping children build connections between letters and sounds, through phonics and phonemic awareness, is so crucial for the developing reading mind. This report is perfect for sharing with colleagues and friends!