Reading to infants benefits both baby and adult, new research finds

A study at Rutgers University details the importance of this parent-child bond.

Reading to infants benefits both baby and adult, new research finds
Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images
  • Infants aged 1-3 are less likely to be disruptive or hyperactive when they're read to regularly.
  • Parents that read to their toddlers are less likely to exhibit harsh behavior toward their children.
  • Regular reading provides not only "academic but emotional benefits that can help bolster the child's success in school and beyond."


By now these scenes have become inevitable: A group of toddlers at the restaurant table, eyes glued at screen, volume on loud, parents oblivious that others are trying to enjoy an evening out. Another: Parent pushing stroller down the street with one hand, their other holding a phone, where their attention actually goes. The tools "connecting the world" once again keeping those in close proximity from connecting to one another.

Perhaps a new study from Rutgers University, published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, will help correct the expectable response from such parents, that "it's the only way I can get them to quiet down." It begins, as our greatest narratives do, by turning open the pages of a book.

According to the study, led by Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School assistant professor Manual Jimenez, parents that regularly read to their toddlers are not only less harsh overall, the children are also less likely to be disruptive or hyperactive. Better kids, better adults: A win-win.

These findings are part of a long line of research on the necessity of parental interactions with their offspring. As 80 percent of brain growth occurs during the first three years of life, with an average of 700 synapses forming per second, babies that hear more from their parents learn more words by age two. By contrast, babies that are spoken to less display learning disabilities for the next six years.

The importance of reading to babies

While there is evidence that communicating with babies inside the womb might make a difference (up to ten weeks before birth), they're paying attention to the sounds parents make from day one. Babies that are talked to more develop their own vocabulary much quicker. Babbling sounds are not random; it's their way of trying to mimic their parents by shaping their mouths in an attempt to match the sounds they hear, another skill quickly acquired the more parents talk.

Even the sing-song "motherese" parents (but especially mothers) serves an important purpose: By stretching out syllables in a melodic way, the baby's attention is held longer. The infant is able to tune in to the pitches and identify syllables more easily, creating the building blocks of language.

As research has shown, adults that read are more intelligent and empathetic. If this skill helps make better humans, it makes sense that infants that are read to would be less anxious and more in tune with their surroundings. It's also understandable that parents that read to their kids would be less harsh to them, given that reactive parenting involves an emotional regulation deficit.

Photo by: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

For this study, Jimenez and team reviewed 2,165 mother-child pairs from across the United States. Mothers were interviewed once regarding their reading habits with their children (ages 1-3). A follow-up interview was conducted two years later.

The more the parents read, the less harsh they were to their children, while the children were less disruptive, regardless of the age range cited above. Jimenez notes that this research could help parents and caregivers in impoverished and underserved neighborhoods forge better relationships to their children, while also setting them up for future success. As he explains:

"For parents, the simple routine of reading with your child on a daily basis provides not just academic but emotional benefits that can help bolster the child's success in school and beyond."

As previous research has noted, parents in poorer neighborhoods tend to speak less to their babies, and when they do, they tend to talk more in commands ("Put that down!") than conversationally. The Rutgers crew hopes this research can reach these areas to provide an easy-to-implement strategy that will benefit both adult and child. Of course, regardless of where you live, this bond benefits your entire family.

--

Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook.

Live on Thursday: Learn innovation with 3-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn

Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live this Thursday at 1pm ET.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to your calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo


Keep reading Show less

The world's watersheds, mapped in gorgeous detail

Hungarian cartographer travels the world while mapping its treasures.

Strange Maps
  • Simple idea, stunning result: the world's watersheds in glorious colors.
  • The maps are the work of Hungarian cartographer Robert Szucs.
  • His job: to travel and map the world, one good cause at a time.
Keep reading Show less

Did our early ancestors boil their food in hot springs?

Scientists have found evidence of hot springs near sites where ancient hominids settled, long before the control of fire.

Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Culture & Religion
Some of the oldest remains of early human ancestors have been unearthed in Olduvai Gorge, a rift valley setting in northern Tanzania where anthropologists have discovered fossils of hominids that existed 1.8 million years ago.
Keep reading Show less

Personal finance: How to save, spend, and think rationally about money

Finances can be a stressor, regardless of tax bracket. Here are tips for making better money decisions.

Videos
  • Whether you have a lot of money or a lot of debt, it matters how you handle your personal finances. A crucial step when it comes to saving is to reassess your relationship with money and to learn to adopt a broader, more logical point of view.
  • In this video, social innovator and activist Vicki Robin, psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton, and author Bruce Feiler offer advice on achieving financial independence, learning to control your emotions, spending smarter, and teaching children about money.
  • It all starts with education and understanding. The more you know about how money works, the better you will be at avoiding mistakes and the easier it will be to take control of your financial circumstances.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast