Monday, November 10, 2014

fun med facts #4

It's a well known fact that reading to young children will help them be "better at school," and more "ready for kindergarten". Jake and I were fortunately read to as kids, and we definitely plan to read to children that we have in the future. In fact, I spent most of my years 3 - 5 memorizing stories (so I could "read" them to anyone who would listen) working on crosswords and word searches, coloring, reading books with Grandma, Mom, and Dad, reading books to "baby Anna," and tracing letters. Unbeknownst to me, that time spent in my younger years would set me up for the moment I'm in now. 

In class last week we learned about how the first five years of life can make a HUGE difference on the rest of the child's life. 

1.  By the age of 2, the brain is about 80% of the adult size and the number of synapses grow rapidly in early childhood.

Your brain is made up of neurons ("brain cells") and they are connected to each other through synapses . So synapses are how the neurons communicate with each other and transmit signals or information to and from the brain or spinal cord. 

You can have a big brain (a normal-sized brain) with fewer synapses than normal and this can cause problems. 

Here's a picture of neurons and their end-to-end connections are the synapses.

(photo here)

2. From infancy to early grade school a child's brain will make 100 trillion more synapses than what actually gets preserved into adulthood! (100 trillion is around 50% more - so young children have 50% more synapses than they'll have in adult years)

Why does this matter? ***This is why it is important to read to your kids***

How does the brain know which synapses will stay and which will disappear? 
  • It depends on which synapses are used frequently. Those synapses that are used many times will be strengthened and the synapses used less will be "pruned" by the body in order to make the synapses that it wants to keep become stronger and more efficient.

"Use it or lose it" applies here.

3. One of the biggest predictors of criminal activity and crime conviction is 3rd grade reading levels.

Will your child be a failure if he or she is not read to as a young age? 

I don't know, of course there are exceptions to statistics all the time. It's just like any other statistic you find. Whether statistics are saying it's more likely to stay in the same socioeconomic status as your parents, more likely for certain races to live in lower or higher income communities, more likely for a certain race to join a certain gang, or less likely for children to attend college if their parents did not attend college, there will always be exceptions. Figures speak for a "majority" and can be good predictors, but experiences shape who we are as well. Supporting a child and encouraging educational endeavors after years 3-5 can make a huge difference I'm sure.  

4. Other early environmental factors matter significantly in developing the early brain.

This includes: poor nutrition, infections, toxins, drug exposure, chronic stress, sensory or social deprivation.

Talking to infants AND kids boosts their brain development too. 

Here's a short, animated video from Harvard that also links children's brain development to reduced crime and a better economy.

If it video doesn't show up on your computer, click here

Here's a sad and happy video that shows how different the first 5 years of a child's life can be in different situations.

If video doesn't show up on your computer, click here

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