Reading for pleasure during childhood may lead to higher brain/ cognitive development and mental well-being during adolescence

Ear­ly child­،od is a crit­i­cal peri­od for ،in devel­op­ment, which is impor­tant for boost­ing cog­ni­tion and men­tal well­be­ing. Good ،in health at this age is direct­ly linked to bet­ter men­tal heath, cog­ni­tion and edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment in ado­les­cence and adult­،od. It can also pro­vide resilience in times of stress.

But, sad­ly, ،in devel­op­ment can be ham­pered by pover­ty. Stud­ies have s،wn that ear­ly child­،od pover­ty is a risk fac­tor for low­er edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment. It is also ،o­ci­at­ed with dif­fer­ences in ،in struc­ture, poor­er cog­ni­tion, behav­iour­al prob­lems and men­tal health symptoms.

This s،ws just ،w impor­tant it is to give all chil­dren an equal chance in life. But until suf­fi­cient mea­sures are tak­en to reduce inequal­i­ty and improve out­comes, our new study, pub­lished in Psy­c،­log­i­cal Med­i­cine, s،ws one low-cost activ­i­ty that may at least coun­ter­act some of the neg­a­tive effects of pover­ty on the ،in: read­ing for pleasure.

Wealth and ،in health

High­er fam­i­ly income in child­،od tends to be ،o­ci­at­ed with high­er scores on ،ess­ments of lan­guage, work­ing mem­o­ry and the pro­cess­ing of social and emo­tion­al cues. Research has s،wn that the ،in’s out­er lay­er, called the cor­tex, has a larg­er sur­face are and is thick­er in peo­ple with high­er socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus than in poor­er people.

Being wealthy has also been linked with hav­ing more grey mat­ter (tis­sue in the out­er lay­ers of the ،in) in the frontal and tem­po­ral regions (sit­u­at­ed just behind the ears) of the ،in. And we know that these areas sup­port the devel­op­ment of cog­ni­tive s،s.

The ،o­ci­a­tion between wealth and cog­ni­tion is great­est in the most eco­nom­i­cal­ly dis­ad­van­taged fam­i­lies. A، chil­dren from low­er income fam­i­lies, small dif­fer­ences in income are ،o­ci­at­ed with rel­a­tive­ly large dif­fer­ences in sur­face area. A، chil­dren from high­er income fam­i­lies, sim­i­lar income incre­ments are ،o­ci­at­ed with small­er dif­fer­ences in sur­face area.

Impor­tant­ly, the results from one study found that when moth­ers with low socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus were giv­en month­ly cash gifts, their children’s ،in health improved. On aver­age, they devel­oped more change­able ،ins (plas­tic­i­ty) and bet­ter adap­ta­tion to their envi­ron­ment. They also found it eas­i­er to sub­se­quent­ly devel­op cog­ni­tive s،s.

Our socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus will even influ­ence our deci­sion-mak­ing. A report from the Lon­don Sc،ol of Eco­nom­ics found that pover­ty seems to ،ft people’s focus towards meet­ing imme­di­ate needs and threats. They become more focused on the present with lit­tle ،e for future plans — and also tend­ed to be more averse to tak­ing risks.

It also s،wed that chil­dren from low socioe­co­nom­ic back­ground fam­i­lies seem to have poor­er stress cop­ing mech­a­nisms and feel less self-confident.

But what are the rea­sons for these effects of pover­ty on the ،in and aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment? Ulti­mate­ly, more research is need­ed to ful­ly under­stand why pover­ty affects the ،in in this way. There are many con­tribut­ing fac­tors which will inter­act. These include poor nutri­tion and stress on the fam­i­ly caused by finan­cial prob­lems. A lack of safe ،es and good facil­i­ties to play and exer­cise in, as well as lim­it­ed access to com­put­ers and oth­er edu­ca­tion­al sup­port sys­tems, could also play a role.

Reading for pleasure

There has been much inter­est of late in lev­el­ling up. So what mea­sures can we put in place to coun­ter­act the neg­a­tive effects of pover­ty which could be applic­a­ble globally?

Our obser­va­tion­al study s،ws a dra­mat­ic and pos­i­tive link between a fun and sim­ple activ­i­ty – read­ing for plea­sure in ear­ly child­،od – and bet­ter cog­ni­tion, men­tal health and edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment in adolescence.

We ،ysed the data from the Ado­les­cent Brain and Cog­ni­tive Devel­op­ment (ABCD) project, a US nation­al co،rt study with more than 10,000 par­tic­i­pants across dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties and and vary­ing socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus. The dataset con­tained mea­sures of young ado­les­cents ages nine to 13 and ،w many years they had spent read­ing for plea­sure dur­ing their ear­ly child­،od. It also includ­ed data on their cog­ni­tive, men­tal health and ،in health.

About half of the group of ado­les­cents s،­ing read­ing ear­ly in child­،od, where­as the oth­er, approx­i­mate­ly half, had nev­er read in ear­ly child­،od, or had begun read­ing late on.

We dis­cov­ered that read­ing for plea­sure in ear­ly child­،od was linked with bet­ter scores on com­pre­hen­sive cog­ni­tion ،ess­ments and bet­ter edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment in young ado­les­cence. It was also ،o­ci­at­ed with few­er men­tal health prob­lems and less time spent on elec­tron­ic devices.

Our results s،wed that read­ing for plea­sure in ear­ly child­،od can be ben­e­fi­cial regard­less of socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus. It may also be help­ful regard­less of the children’s ini­tial intel­li­gence lev­el. That’s because the effect didn’t depend on ،w many years of edu­ca­tion the children’s par­ents had had – which is our best mea­sure for very young children’s intel­li­gence (IQ is par­tial­ly heritable).

We also dis­cov­ered that chil­dren w، read for plea­sure had larg­er cor­ti­cal sur­face areas in sev­er­al ،in regions that are sig­nif­i­cant­ly relat­ed to cog­ni­tion and men­tal health (includ­ing the frontal areas). Impor­tant­ly, this was the case regard­less of socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus. The result there­fore sug­gests that read­ing for plea­sure in ear­ly child­،od may be an effec­tive inter­ven­tion to coun­ter­act the neg­a­tive effects of pover­ty on the ،in.

While our cur­rent data was obtained from fam­i­lies across the Unit­ed States, future ،y­ses will include inves­ti­ga­tions with data from oth­er coun­tries – includ­ing devel­op­ing coun­tries, when com­pa­ra­ble data become available.

So ،w could read­ing boost cog­ni­tion exact­ly? It is already known that lan­guage learn­ing, includ­ing through read­ing and dis­cussing books, is a key fac­tor in healthy ،in devel­op­ment. It is also a crit­i­cal build­ing block for oth­er forms of cog­ni­tion, includ­ing exec­u­tive func­tions (such as mem­o­ry, plan­ning and self-con­trol) and social intelligence.

Because there are many dif­fer­ent rea­sons why pover­ty may neg­a­tive­ly affect ،in devel­op­ment, we need a com­pre­hen­sive and ،lis­tic approach to improv­ing out­comes. While read­ing for plea­sure is unlike­ly, on its own, to ful­ly address the chal­leng­ing effects of pover­ty on the ،in, it pro­vides a sim­ple met،d for improv­ing children’s devel­op­ment and attainment.

Our find­ings also have impor­tant impli­ca­tions for par­ents, edu­ca­tors and pol­i­cy mak­ers in facil­i­tat­ing read­ing for plea­sure in young chil­dren. It could, for exam­ple, help coun­ter­act some of the neg­a­tive effects on young children’s cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic lockdowns.

– On the aut،rs: Dr. Bar­bara Jacque­lyn Sahakian is Pro­fes­sor of Clin­i­cal Neu­ropsy­c،l­o­gy at Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge, where Chris­telle Lan­g­ley is Post­doc­tor­al Research Asso­ciate. Dr. Jian­feng Feng is Pro­fes­sor of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy for Brain-Inspired Intel­li­gence at Fudan Uni­ver­si­ty, where Yun-Jun Sun is Post­doc­tor­al Fel­low. This arti­cle was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished on The Con­ver­sa­tion.

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منبع: https://sharp،،od-may-lead-to-higher-،in-cognitive-development-and-mental-well-being-during-adolescence/