Scientific Evidence That Reading Positively Affects Children’s Brains

In a study issued in April, 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics revealed scientific evidence of the positive effects that reading has on younger children. For years, pediatricians have encouraged new parents to read to their babies as early and often as possible. Now there is actual scientific proof through MRI testing establishing how reading to children influences different brain activities which then helps in the development of oral language skills and ultimately reading skills.  The children who were a part of the scientific study underwent MRI testing while they were listening to stories via headphones. The researchers were able to monitor their brain activity.  Here is an excerpt from the article in Science Daily that discusses the findings:

We are excited to show, for the first time, that reading exposure during the critical stage of development prior to kindergarten seems to have a meaningful, measurable impact on how a child’s brain processes stories and may help predict reading success,” said study author John Hutton, MD, National Research Service Award Fellow, Division of General and Community Pediatrics, Reading and Literacy Discovery Center, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “Of particular importance are brain areas supporting mental imagery, helping the child ‘see the story’ beyond the pictures, affirming the invaluable role of imagination.
— Science Daily

Read more of the article by CLICKING HERE.

Using Music to Help Children Build Language and Literacy Skills

Studies have shown that music helps students learn not only rhythm and motor skills, but importantly also language and literary skills.  One such study, by Professors Patricia Cullingham and Richard Allington in 2011, found that when we see or hear words in a new context, our brain creates new synapses (connections) to those words. Professors Cullingham and Allington advocate that children be exposed to vocabulary and other literacy skills in different and meaningful ways. Music has been a very effective tool in bringing meaning to new material including skills in literacy.  

How can parents use music to help their children with language and literacy skills? First, parents can use songbooks so that their children read the words and sing their favorite songs. Second, parents can sing songs with their children.  Visit this website for songs that build reading and language skills - CLICK HERE.

Third, take the words that are repeated in songs and read them in print.  Two books that can be used are Over the Rainbow and Puff the Magic Dragon, both beautifully illustrated by Eric Puybaret.  Fourth, encourage your children to take part in afterschool music ensembles that inspire creativity and involve expression through the arts.

Inspiring Family Reading

I have such fond memories of reading together as a family with my two sons and late husband.  As often as we could, we would huddle together on our bed and read a good book.  In the beginning, I would read out loud to everyone, but as the boys became better readers, they would read out loud to us.  How much time we spent reading together varied depending on our schedules and the type of book we were reading. 

    One of our most favorite books was the Hank the Cow Dog series by John Erickson.  We bought and read every single book in that series.  The series is about a dog named Hank and his sidekick Drover who lived on a ranch and had many funny adventures.  There were other characters who added exceptionally hilarious times, such as Pete the sly barn cat.  As we read, we would pause and laugh and then go back to reading.  We would stop reading whenever we wanted.  Sometimes, there would be an argument as to whether we should stop at a certain point or continue because of the suspense, but often, we read about a chapter a week.  We loved that series so much that we purchased and donated it to the library at my sons’ school.  

    I would like to inspire you to read as a family too.  The memories are precious and last a lifetime.  It is also a great bonding and teaching time for the kids. 

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt

 

The Important Role that Grandparents Play in Emphasizing Reading

    Grandparents are such influential people in the lives of our children.  One very important influence should be in building reading skills and emphasizing reading.  According to the Children’s Reading Foundation, grandparents can spoil their grandchildren in good ways by giving them a reading-rich lifestyle.

Here are some suggestions from the Foundation as to what grandparents can do whether they live close by or not:

  • Sing songs, recite poetry and do finger plays to help develop language and listening skills.
  • Play word games and do puzzles together. These activities provide wonderful opportunities to build vocabulary.
  • Offer books or magazine subscriptions as gifts for birthdays and other special occasions.
  • Invite your grandchild to the bookstore or library for story hour. Don’t rush. Take time to browse the books and to cuddle together in the cozy chairs. Time is your gift to give. 
  • Let your grandchild see you reading and enjoying books. When you’re together, read aloud the words on signs, menus, and captions under an interesting photograph in a magazine or newspaper.

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt

When was the Last Time that You Read to a Child in Your Lap?

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.
— Emilie Buchwald

           Reading time with children should always be a fun time for you and them.  Have you thought about it also being a time to show your child your love?  When was the last time that you put your child in your lap and actually read to him/her?  This quote from Emile Buchwald is very touching to me.  Generally, children learn the love of reading from their parents.  They observe their parents reading.  Their parents spend time reading to them.  But, actually taking your child and sitting your child on your lap to read is extremely loving and personal.  It is saying to your child “I love you so much that I want to share this special time and book with you and build a loving relationship while we do it.” 

          Twenty years from now – what do you want your child to remember of the childhood years?  A mom or dad who were too busy to sit down and read a book to and with them?  Or a mom and dad who intentionally set aside time for the child to make the child feel loved and important?  Create memories now and build a reader while you are doing it.

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt

 

Include Visiting a Library at Your Vacation Spot as Part of Your Family’s Travel Plans

    Have you ever thought of visiting a library at your vacation spot as part of your family’s travel plans?  I’m sure that, at first, this may sound strange or odd.  But, take a few minutes to think about it.

    Libraries all over the US are seeking ways to better serve the public.  Most of them have very active children’s sections with regular readings, puppet shows, children’s art displays, and computer activities all aimed at fostering a love of reading. 

    My parents retired to live in a senior citizen community just north of Orlando, Florida.  When we visited them, we, of course, included trips to the many theme parks in the area.  But, that wasn’t all – we also regularly visited the Orlando Public Library.  My sons had interesting adventures in the children’s section amongst the great books available! Their imagination was the limit!

    Search the internet about the library located at your vacation spot.  The website www.publiclibraries.com is helpful to find one with just one easy click.  On the website for the Orlando Public Library, I found some very interesting topics for adults and children: a class on learning how to pack healthy lunches for kids; a talk on family adventures by a travel author; “end of summer” events with costumes and prizes; and much more. 

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt

The Importance of Children Having Pets

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.
— Groucho Marx

When my children were growing up, we usually had a dog and a cat for them to play with and take care of.  Research has shown that pets have an important role in the lives of children.  They teach compassion and love; responsibility; and companionship.  Often, they provide security to a child.  

It’s very important though to make sure that your family has the time and energy to take care of a pet, especially a dog.  If you get a puppy, understand that a lot of time will have to be invested training the puppy, especially if it is to be an indoors pet.

 One of my sisters recently bought a puppy at a fundraising auction for her children’s school.  Yes – the puppy looked oh so cute.  But, little did she know what they would have to endure as a family with a new puppy – constant yipping, going to the bathroom all over the house, barking at everyone, etc.  It is now almost 9 months since she purchased the puppy, and things have improved, but after much struggle.

There are many adult dogs and cats that can be adopted too.  Take the plunge if you haven’t already.  A pet adds a special dynamic to your children’s lives.

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt

 

10 Benefits of Children Playing Sports

According to the website www.family.com, there are at least 10 benefits to children for playing sports:

• It’s fun

• Kids have better self esteem, especially girls

• Kids are less likely to use drugs because they realize how destructive drugs can be to their bodies. Girls also are less likely to get pregnant. 

• Good to relieve stress and helps fight depression

• Teaches discipline, especially how to set and achieve goals

• Learn how to handle disappointment as sometimes you will win, but sometimes you will lose

• Academic success is often linked to participation in sports

• Develops teamwork and leadership skills

• Bolsters motor skills and math skills

• Teaches the importance of regular exercise which many will take into adulthood

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt

 

Consider Sports as Great Summer Activities for Your Children

My sons played all kinds of sports year round, especially my oldest son Zac, who is the athlete in the family.   When I was in school, I didn’t play many team sports but I did play a lot of games such as dodge ball and tetherball.  I was also a fast runner, beating my sisters and friends in running sprints.  

Playing sports is often associated with children doing well in school and actually graduating.  I had blogged previously about the NFL’s program “Play 60/Read 20” that encourages children to play and read more.  I can’t say enough about how important this is for children during the summer, in particular.  There are many sports camps available.  Or, sports activities can be planned with relatives and friends.  Again, it requires us as parents to be active in our children’s lives and make plans.

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt

 

An Active Parent Makes All the Difference

As parents, we have learned about the many negative effects that watching too much television can have on our children.  The important question is - what we can do about it?  According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), parents must be actively involved.  The key word is “active”.

Here are some of the ways that the organization recommends for parents to become active by:

•    Viewing programs with your children 
•    Selecting developmentally appropriate shows 
•    Placing limits on the amount of television viewing (per day and per week) 
•    Turning off the TV during family meals and study time 
•    Turning off shows you don't feel are appropriate for your child 

AACAP also recommends that parents select specific shows for their children to watch rather than just allow their children to sit in front of the tv for hours and watch random shows.  
There are many things that we can do as parents.  Let’s make a commitment to be more active this summer to ensure that our children are healthier and happier.

If you would like more information, visit AACAP by clicking here.

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt

 

Watching too much Television Has Negative Effects on Children

Sometimes, as a parent, I used the television set as a substitute babysitter.  Yes, I confess -it is too easy to do.  I would rationalize it by saying to myself that it was only for a short period of time and that I really needed to get something else done without my sons being under my feet. However, I have learned that doing this was not good for my children or me. 

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), there are confirmed negative effects on our children from watching TV.  For example, children who watch a lot of TV have these characteristics in common: they exercise less and tend to be overweight; they read less; and they have lower grades.  Also, they learn about such things as junk food, smoking, drinking alcohol, and sex.  Since they are so young and impressionable, parents should be introducing and talking to them about these subjects rather than having them learn from what they have watched on TV.

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt

 

How much Television will Your Children be Watching this Summer?

Now that school is over and summertime is here, what will your children be doing this summer?  I hope it’s not a lot of television watching!  The famous comedian Groucho Marx once said “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”  Does your child like to pick up a book rather than watch TV? 

For very young children under 2 years old, the American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends that they do not watch any TV.  During these early years, children develop interaction skills with people and love to explore and play.  Watching TV deprives them of this critical development.   For preschoolers, watching TV can help with their learning the letters in the alphabet and other educational information, but TV should be limited.   Playing and reading should be important parts of their day with watching TV (or DVDs) as just a minimal pastime.

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt