Reading and its Effects on Development
Over the years the attention focused on children from birth to three years has increased dramatically. Actually, it was in the 1970’s that researchers began to believe that reading to infants would help to stimulate their growth and development. Up to the decade of the 1970’s many people believed that infants lacked any intellectual abilities. Some people also believed that an infant’s hearing and vision were not operative in the first few months of life. But, over the years studies have proven otherwise. The first three years of life have been proven to be the most critical years in a child’s development. One area looked at by researchers and teachers are is how reading to infants and toddlers affects their development. Researchers and child development specialists advocate that parents begin reading to their children, even from birth, because it helps the child’s brain to develop more quickly and aids in the development of language skills.
Brain development is very crucial in the first three years of life. Experts now say it’s the first three years of a child’s life that may hold the key to the future (Phillips, 1998). Infants are born with about one hundred billion brain cells, and when the child is not stimulated the brain cells die off. The critical period of brain development is within the first six months of life; the sensitive period of brain development includes birth to three years of age (Murray, n.d). At three months the brain has the potential to distinguish several hundred spoken sounds. Over the next few months the brain organizes itself to recognize only the sounds it hears (Phillips, 1998). This shows that if a child is not exposed to literature and other words that are in daily conversations, at a young age the child’s brain is more likely to block those words out. Children raised in environmentally deprived facilities experience fewer sounds, colors, pictures, interactions, and sights. Their brains are smaller than those of children who grow up in sensually rich environments with meaningful relationships (Porter, 2003).
Sounds, pictures, interactions, and sights can all be gained from a book. Having someone sit down and read with a child can allow him or her to experience these stimulants to the senses. Also, reading to a child helps the brain to recognize the spoken word with the written word. The brain’s plasticity also means that there are times when negative experiences or the absence of appropriate stimulation are more likely to have serious and sustained effects (Early Childhood, 2002). Appropriate stimulation would include interacting with the child either by talking to him, or by touching him. Reading is one way to talk to a child and to allow him to be stimulated by the human voice, the words, the pictures in the book, and the colors in the book.
Language skills are also developed by reading books. Once the brain has recognized the words as...