Do Picture Books Improve Reading?


Try not to read this word:


It was impossible, right? Our brains are so skilled at recognizing words and immediately connecting them to meaning, perhaps even forming instantaneous images, that we can't help but read! 

This is our brain's word form region at work. Fast recognition of words happens in our brains due to important rewiring. Rewired connections are the hallmark of what reading scientists call  "the reading brain." 

Researchers know that children with a high exposure to books from infancy on acquire important pre-reading skills, known as emergent literacy. This includes knowledge of what words are for, how books are oriented, and how to turn pages. Emergent literacy skills give children a head start when learning to read, positively influencing reading progress.

Baby with book Bloughs.jpeg

Emergent Literacy

Early book exposure rewires the brain!

Now researchers understand that early book exposure actually changes brain development, too. According to neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene, in his book Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read, an important area of the brain used for object and facial recognition in babies grows in size and strength during the emergent literacy years. As children are exposed to books and print, this critical object-facial recognition area is "rewired" to become the word-form recognition area-the one we used to recognize the word "elephant." Word form memory provides crucial cognitive support for reading accuracy and speed. 

The size and robustness of the visual word form area . . . is directly correlated to the amount of time and exposure, from birth to age three, that a child has sat in an adult's lap and been exposed to print.
~ Kristin Barbour, SLP, John Hopkins School of Education

Our sweet little babies and toddlers are never too young for books. As they sit in our laps and listen to our words, touching and looking at pictures, attaching meaning to all they see and hear, they are quite literally shaping their brains for reading! 

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