Reading Beefs Up Kids' Brains

Builds info-carrying networks in white matter
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2009 10:58 AM CST
Intensive reading practice beefs up kids' reading skills and their brain highways.   (Shutter Stock)

(Newser) – Time children spend reading doesn't just improve their reading skills, it changes the structure of their brains. A new study found that poor readers have weak information-carrying highways in their brains' "white matter," and that through intensive reading practice, kids with previously "low quality" white matter can significantly alter the network of fibers carrying information around the brain, NPR reports.

Regular classroom instruction isn't enough to change the brain's structure, according to the study: The kids who were able to alter their white matter did so through 100 hours of highly repetitive intensive reading instruction. The findings challenge scientists' previous assumption that learning is all about gray matter, the brain tissues that process and store information. "By analogy, we were looking at a transistor, and now we're looking at the whole network," one of the study's researchers says.

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