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Why The Number of Books in a Childs Home Matters

In a babys first year, its easy to focus on physical development. We marvel at weight gain and celebrate gross motor milestones. Less obvious to the casual observer, though, is the amazing development going on behind the scenes inside a childs brain.

Early childhood, from birth to age 5, is a time of rapid development. The brain triples in size in a babys first year and is virtually fully formed by the time a child enters kindergarten. Engagement and enrichment during these years can positively change the architecture of the brain for life. Reading to infants and young children every day is one of the best and easiest - ways caregivers can encourage and accelerate healthy brain development in this critical window of time. In fact, studies show that raising babies and young children in a book-rich environment is the single biggest indicator of later academic success surpassing income, parents education, family composition, and all other factors.

So, what is it about books that is so beneficial for a childs brain? There are a few things at play here:

Words, Words, Words - Language is a powerful input for the brain. Reading just 15 minutes a day exposes a child to a million words a year - far more than even the most chatty caregiver could expose them to. The number of words a child is exposed to in the first 5 years of life is a direct predictor of their future academic success.

The Shared Experience of Reading Together The activity of reading to babies and young children is a shared experience. As you point to the pictures in the book, you direct their gaze to sync up with your own. As you read a touch-and-feel book, you talk about the textures you both experience as you stroke the patterns and explore the pages. Babies should experience shared books as early as they experience shared talking from the very first weeks of life.

Books Encourage Curiosity Where is Spot hiding? Will the duck finally jump into the water with his brothers and sisters? Even before your child can communicate his thoughts about the book to you, his brain is actively firing away, anticipating what comes next as you turn the pages.

Books Develop Memory Skills Young children love to hear the same books over and over again. Each time, they remember more of the story, sharpening their memory. Strong memory skills are important for learning in all disciplines.

Background Information Books expose very young children to information about the world around them. Book by book, a childs store of knowledge grows effortlessly. A colorful touch and feel book about farm animals teaches even the youngest child about the workings of a farm - tractors are things you ride on and cows are animals the farmer milks. A robust store of background information enables children to learn and make connections more easily when presented with other concepts relevant to the information they already know.

Organizing the Brain - All of the experiences above encourage the developing brain to increase and organize its white matter. A brains white matter facilitates communication between the various parts of the brain. So, well-developed white matter equates to a brain that learns faster and functions better.

The takeaway? Books are a powerful tool for nurturing a budding little mind. Ensure that books are as accessible as any toy in your home, dont limit them to just the bookshelf. Integrate reading into your childs day in the same way you incorporate play.

Check out our articles about how to make your home book-friendly and our favorite books for the youngest kids. Happy reading!

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