Image by Petra from Pixabay


May 27, 2024

If you want to spend any amount of time with your child beyond hugs, feeding and basic life duties, I would recommend reading above all else. I find it hard to believe that this is the first article that I have written on reading. I pondered that for a minute and concluded that this, in effect, was me taking this information for granted. That ends today.

When I reflect on my journey on the road to reading literacy, I note that I was not an avid reader. Nay, I hated reading for most of my childhood. My first self chosen pleasure book was The Firm when I was 23 years old. Why would this be? To sit for me was and is akin to mild torture. While other kids loved to dive into a book, that was not for me. Run, play, drum, hike, yes sir. All in.

Time passes and I have grown to love reading. What changed? A thirst for knowledge was the catalyst for the new choices. Not any other demands of me or some moral code of right and wrong. Simply my need spurring metamorphosis. Why do I bring this up? Simply to help parents see that time, modeling behavior and love are the paths for children to see and be.

What are the truths about reading lest I take it for granted again.


Reading is one cornerstone of a few thousand years of human culture. The ability to read en mass became the explosion point for human intellect, a bridge connecting us to the collective knowledge and experiences of the past learned individuals. Reading began first with pictorial representations of words or concepts in Egypt and other cultures. The first alphabetic based writing and reading began in Phoenicia with an early version of an alphabet 1000 years BC. Our current alphabet came into existence slowly over centuries before the 26 letters were solidified in the 16th century. The next log step event was the invention of the Gutenberg printing press in 1440. This was the first major democratization event for the spread of knowledge. The next few hundred years saw a shift from only certain groups having access to reading material to reading education for all individuals, especially the children. (Hendricks)

What is the science of reading? Bench/lab researchers have noted recent advancements in neuroscience providing us with deeper understanding of the myriad benefits of reading. The act of reading enhances cognitive function, emotional intelligence, and even physical health. Reading is a complex cognitive process that involves several regions of the brain. When we read, your eyes receive the sensory input of the words on the page passing this information to the visual cortex. Then the angular gyrus interprets the words leaving the frontal lobes to engage in decoding and comprehending the information. This intricate interplay of neural networks not only facilitates the understanding of written language but also strengthens cognitive functions such as memory in the hippocampus, attention in the prefrontal cortex, and critical thinking in the neocortex. Studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have shown that reading activates the left hemisphere's language centers, particularly Broca's and Wernicke's areas, which are crucial for speech production and comprehension . This neural activity is not confined to the linguistic domain; reading also stimulates areas involved in sensory and motor processing. (Hauk et. al. 2004) For instance, reading descriptive words like "lavender" or "cinnamon" can evoke sensory experiences, activating regions associated with smell and taste . (Shaywitz et. al. 2008)( Gonzalez et. al. 2006)


The cognitive benefits of reading are especially pronounced in children. Early exposure to reading not only enhances language acquisition but also boosts overall intellectual development. This is intuitive as the act of reading lays down memory and begins the process of cognitive understanding beyond what is observed through relationship and nature. It would be hard to achieve the knowledge of the written word by observation alone. Children who are read to regularly exhibit advanced language skills, better attention spans, and higher academic achievement.(Mol et. al. 2008) The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading aloud to children from birth, emphasizing that this practice fosters bonding and promotes early literacy skills.

Furthermore, reading helps develop theory of mind—the ability to understand others' thoughts and emotions. This skill is critical for social interaction and empathy. Engaging with stories allows children to step into different characters' shoes, enhancing their ability to empathize and navigate social complexities. This aspect of reading is becoming more critical in the social media world. From the Journal Cognitive Development we see the following: "Exposure to different forms of narrative media may influence children's development of theory-of-mind. Because engagement with fictional narratives provides one with information about the social world, and possibly draws upon theory-of-mind processes during comprehension, exposure to storybooks, movies, and television may influence theory-of-mind development. We examined 4–6 year-olds’ inferred exposure to children's literature, television, and film, using an objective measure that controls for socially desirable responding. Theory-of-mind was assessed using a battery of five tasks. Controlling for age, gender, vocabulary, and parental income, inferred exposure to children's storybooks predicted theory-of-mind abilities. Inferred exposure to children's movies also predicted theory-of-mind development, but inferred exposure to children's television did not." (Mar et. al. 2010)


Reading is not only a cognitive exercise but also critically an emotional one. It offers a comprehensive self sustaining refuge from the stresses of daily life and has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. This is an exceedingly useful tool for most minor mood issues. More complex mood issues need deeper dives into the emotional traumas and responses, but the adjunctive reading can help see pathways to healing. Fiction and story, in particular, plays a significant role in enhancing emotional intelligence. By immersing oneself in the lives of fictional characters, readers can explore complex human emotions and moral dilemmas. This engagement fosters empathy and improves the reader's ability to understand and manage their own emotions .

What are some of my practical recommendations

1) Start Early: Introduce books to children at a young age to foster a love for reading and support cognitive development. Foster reading desire by reading to them but also modeling your self reading choice.

2) Diverse Genres: Encourage reading a variety of genres to stimulate different areas of the brain and keep the reading experience engaging. Even comics or pictorial novels are a great place for readers to start despite the bad rap that they sometimes get.

3)Daily Reading: Make reading a daily habit. Even 20 minutes a day can significantly impact cognitive and emotional health. It is a great connection to bedtime for young children.

4)Digital Detox: Allocate specific times for reading without digital interruptions to improve focus and absorption of the material. This is especially huge for teens. Again, model this behavior.

Next Week - science of reading difficulties,

For the future,

Dr. M

Hendricks Social Studies Webpage

Shaywitz Dev Psych

Hauk Neuron

Gonzalez Neuroimage

Mol Early Ed Develop

Mar Cognitive Develop

Kidd Science