The Benefits of Reading Fairy Tales for Children: the Opinion of a Neuroscientist

In Russian folk tales, great wisdom is hidden: through metaphors and images, the people passed on to future generations basic knowledge about the universe and the wisdom of the centuries. However, there is one more plus of reading fairy tales to children, from the point of view of neurobiology. Despite the fact that a lot has already been said about the dangers of TV, today some parents still adhere to the method of distracting the child’s attention with the help of television or the Internet, so that the child does not “get underfoot.”

The benefits of reading fairy tales for children - the opinion of a neuroscientist

If Soviet cartoons predominantly carry positive messages, then if you analyze Disney cartoons, you can see that from an early age children are oriented towards material values, they cultivate greed, selfishness, indifference to the problems of others, and so on. Most of the plots of Disney cartoons are built on the confrontation of characters for the sake of achieving any personal gain, and not only is this served as the norm, but also seasoned with humor, which makes the child simply impervious to other people’s pain and distorts basic human values.

Therefore, it is better to choose the first from reading a fairy tale or cartoon. And then the next question arises: maybe it is worth giving preference to an audiobook in order to save your own time? However, research by Professor John Hutton shows that reading a book to a child on their own has a number of benefits.

Benefits of Reading for Children - What Research Says

So, 27 children aged 4 years were selected for the study. They were offered to familiarize themselves with a new fairy tale in one of three different ways – listening to an audiobook, reading or a cartoon. During this process, brain activity was monitored using magnetic resonance imaging. The results were surprising.

While listening to an audiobook, children experienced difficulties in understanding the content, but at the same time the speech centers in the brain were activated. Watching the cartoon activated the auditory and visual centers, but slowed down speech. And, according to Professor Hutton, it was in this case that the understanding of the plot was at the lowest level of all three options. The professor explains this by the fact that the cartoon does all the work for the child – he does not need to think and analyze, and therefore the perception of the content is very superficial.

The most positive results came from reading the illustrated book. In this case, the understanding of the plot was as complete as possible, only the activity of the speech center decreased slightly, since the child concentrates not only on words, but also on the pictures that he sees. And this allows him to carry out his own analysis of information – to compare what he hears with pictures and, as it were, build his own vision of the fairy tale plot.

But the most interesting thing is that while reading a book with pictures, a connection was noted between different areas of the child’s brain – the speech center, the visual center, the area responsible for imaginative thinking, and so on. That is, it is reading a book with pictures that allows the child to use all parts of the brain to the maximum.

According to Professor Hutton, the danger of cartoons is also that watching them interferes with the normal development of areas of the brain that are responsible for the imagination and passive mode. Professor Hatton also notes that watching cartoons in the long term can lead to the fact that the child’s brain simply does not learn to fully cope with such tasks as the formation of mental images and comprehension of incoming information. And in the future, this will lead to the fact that a person will generally poorly assimilate the information received through reading.

Should I choose a book or a gadget

Should I choose a book or a gadget?

Why is reading books good for our brain? As our body eats material food, so our brain needs informational food. It is reading a book that allows a person to launch thought processes, imagination, imaginative thinking, and so on. This simply does not happen when we consume information through, for example, television.

The question may arise: is there a difference between reading a paper book or an e-book? According to one of the well-known ophthalmologists, if before the popularization of gadgets among the population, the main problem that children treated were various eye injuries received during yard battles, today children are dealing with the problem of myopia, which is explained by the fact that most of them spend behind the screen of the gadget most of the day. It doesn’t matter what they are doing – watching a video or reading an e-book. Of course, reading will be more beneficial for the brain, but the harm to vision will be the same.

Reading a book is always thinking and analyzing. Even any comparison between a book and a movie based on the book will almost always be in favor of the book. Of course, modern special effects and other cinematic gimmicks make it possible to draw more attention to the film than to the book. But judging by the quality of understanding the plot, immersion in events, getting some kind of deep understanding, then here the book will always be a priority.

The difference between reading and watching a movie can be compared to the difference between going to the Hermitage and viewing the same paintings in a catalog. It seems that the information is the same, but something important, the feeling of connection with something great is lost.

And today, television and the Internet are gradually replacing the habit of reading books. But this is not at all an indicator of progress. Also, the popularity of fast food versus healthy, homemade, simple food cannot be considered an indicator of progress.

Reading is the best training for neural connections

Reading is the best training for neural connections

The human brain is designed in such a way that neural connections are constantly being formed in it; this subsequently determines our habits, perceptions, abilities. And these connections are formed for everyone. But for a person who is used to thinking, reflecting, cognizing, this is a wide network of associative connections, which is responsible for the ability to look broadly at reality. If a person looks at the world through a TV screen or a gadget, then he will have this very wide view of reality.

It is important to understand: the brain is always learning. And it is always (or almost always) only our choice – what we give him to consume. Our consciousness, like a sponge, absorbs everything that we load into it. And this ability can be used both for the development and for the degradation of one’s own personality.

Reading Shapes a New Universe

Our brain is so arranged that it does not see the difference between real events, memories or fantasies. Emotions and experiences that the brain receives both in the process of real events and in the process of memories or fantasies, they feel the same way. Ivan Mikhailovich Sechenov spoke about this at one time.

For example, some studies suggest that when athletes simply imagine that they are doing some kind of exercise, they have activity in the corresponding muscles.

Reading Shapes a New Universe

Thus, when we read a book, we build the whole Universe with the power of our imagination, and this allows us to experience very real emotions, experiences, feelings, and so on. The difference with television content is that the brain is not involved in the work there as much as when reading a book.

Our brain develops by processing incoming information through vision, hearing, and so on. The higher the quality of this information, the more efficiently our brain develops.

Children’s stories are the very first step in a person’s life, which allows him to develop his brain and, as a result, himself as a person.

Reading fairy tales to children is perhaps the best method of presenting information. In addition to the fact that the child develops imaginative thinking, imagination, the skills of analyzing incoming information, the child also absorbs the wisdom of our ancestors, which is contained in fairy tales.

This is exactly what this is about: what information parents offer to a child largely depends on his further life path. And if a child is “brought up” by a TV or a YouTube blogger, all this uploaded information will then become part of the child’s worldview. This is important to understand.

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