Books benefit behavior, learning

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Even children are drawn in by a good story.

New studies show fostering that focus is yet another benefit of reading to children.

"They want to pay attention. They want to know what is next," says Dr. Saeedeh Salmanzadeh of Cotton O'Neil Pediatric Care. "(Which is why reading benefits) not only cognitive ability and skills and language and literacy, but also behavior of a child."

Salmanzadeh says new studies reinforce children who are read to have less trouble with aggression, hyperactivity and concentration. Plus, early reading sets the stage for life-long learning.

"Any stimulation of the brain cells can help to improve the cognitive ability, which is thinking, problem solving and decision making," Salmanzadeh said.

For the best benefits, experts say start as babies.

"A lot of times, it's about sitting on the lap, looking at the pictures," said Marie Pyko, public services director at the Topeka and Shawnee Co. Public Library. "Babies - they don't read - but it's about that interaction. It's about the eye contact. It's about the smiles."

Pyko says simply saying the words aloud helps with speech and language skills.

"You start talking and using words you wouldn't normally use, so you're learning vocabulary and interacting," she said.

Pyko says parents should set a good example.

"If they see you with books, then they start gravitating to books," she said.

Salmanzadeh says time together over a real book, is better than a child alone with a screen, because "you have interaction, dialogue."

As an added bonus, the benefits go both ways.

"Parents also are going to have less depression, less anxiety, better quality of life and more confidence in their parenting," Salmanzadeh said.

Both Pyko and Salmanzadeh want parents to know about free resources to bring books into their homes. The "Turn a Page. Touch a Mind" program through the Kansas Pediatric Foundation gives a free book at every well child visit through age five. They have 85 sites around the state, including Cotton O'Neil Pediatrics, Topeka Pediatrics, Pediatric Associates of Topeka and Manhattan, and Stonecreek Family Physicians in Manhattan. You can find the full list of sites by clicking here.

Also, Shawnee County parents can sign up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which sends a free book to your home each month. You can register for it by clicking here.