Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Reading and the Brain

Enjoying a book in the reading loft
Advances in technology have enabled researchers to enlightened educators about what actually happens in the brain as a child learns to read.  I've been rereading a fascinating book called Building the Reading Brain by Pamela Nevills and want to share a few things parents might find interesting.

•A baby's brain is born with the connections in place that allow it to speak every language in the world!  Most babies learn to talk just by spending time with people who speak.

•Brains do not come "wired" to read or write.  Learning to read and write occurs when connections are built in the brain through a long, gradual process.

•Speaking actually serves as a bridge for learning to write and read.

•A core skill in learning to read is the ability to manipulate sounds in words.  Researchers have discovered something called "The Nursery Rhyme Effect" which helps children learn to manipulate sounds.  Brain cells and neural connections are stimulated to fire together when children hear words that rhyme.

•Nursery rhymes build two foundational brain connections through the ability to recognize words that rhyme, and distinguish sounds that are alike and different.  Researchers have discovered that knowledge of nursery rhymes is strongly and specifically connected to development of abstract word processing skills and future reading ability. (p.55).

Reading to children enhances brain development by:
-creating familiarity with language patterns
-increasing vocabulary
-strengthening neural connections through repetition
-reinforcing familiar words by rereading their "old favorites"
-encouraging familiarity with the reading process and helping develop concepts of print in young children
-stimulating working memory and helping children make connections from talking about a book

At Breck, we are fortunate to have children who grow up hearing adults read to them.  Just think about the important neural connections you have built cuddled up with your children around a book!  Thank you for contributing to this vital component in your child's literacy development.   

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