“Should I be alarmed that my teenage son doesn’t pick up a book on his own these days?
The short answer is, yes.
Based on research over the last 20 years teenagers that don’t read books are less likely to attend college, reduced language skills, experience depression more frequently then non-readers and have lower paying jobs. That is a lot to be alarmed about. Research also notes that reading fiction has significant benefits to the brain including increasing attention span, developing empathy, improving overall social cognition and enhancing reasoning ability. Reading books benefit our teenagers in so many ways. …
The importance of modeling reading to young children and teenagers cannot be understated. Our brain contains mirror neurons and what is referred to as the mirror neuron system. Essentially, neuroscience research is showing that mirror neurons fire in our brain when we observe someone doing an action or when we do the action ourselves. Even just imaging the action can cause the mirror neurons to fire. As children watch us perform actions their mirror neurons replicate what we are doing. If we attach that action to a pleasurable activity such as reading to your child than the dopamine reward system is activated. Dopamine is released in the brain reinforcing the pleasure of that action for our children. Thus, when a parent picks up a book and snuggles up to their child before bedtime this association is reinforced between the mirror neurons and the dopamine reward system.
Research is showing that there is a significant correlation between reading aloud to children and educational advantages. In 1985, a landmark report in the U.S. called “Becoming a Nation of Readers” stated that reading aloud to children is “the single most important activity for building knowledge required for eventual success in reading”. Reading aloud also promotes vocabulary development, listening skills, attention span and other emergent literacy skills. However, if a parent cannot read efficiently how many will even attempt a bedtime story? More importantly, if reading is not modeled to children as a pleasurable activity how many of these children will discover this fact themselves as teenagers?”
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