Recent research by the Reading & Literacy Discovery Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital is the first to show neurobiological evidence for the benefits of reading vs. the detriments of screen time on preschoolers' brain development. As science proves it now with stunning pictures, keeping away your kids from screens and reading to them during their formative years - from birth to age 5 - EFFECTIVELY boosts their brain development.

Brain scans of preschoolers who are frequently read to by a parent or caregiver show (as highlighted in red in the image below) a growth of the organized white matter in the literacy and language areas of their brain - a development crucially needed to support future learning at school. On the other hand, brain scans of preschoolers who spend on average two hours a day using television, computers, smartphones, tablets, etc., show massive underdevelopment and disorganization of white matter in the same areas.

According to Dr. John Hutton, a pediatrician and clinical researcher at Cincinnati Children's Hospital and lead author of the study, "Kids who have more stimulating experiences that organize the brain are at a huge advantage when they get to school. And it's really harder and harder for kids to catch up if they arrive behind."

"Children are born with more neurons than they'll ever have in their life, essentially a blank slate. Depending on what type of stimulation the child has with caregivers - being talked to, being held, going outside, being read to - connections between these neurons are reinforced," said Dr. Hutton. Indeed the brain can change and improve and learn at all ages but this process is much more agile and efficient during the first years. This is why early childhood experiences are so crucial.

In addition to being scanned, the preschoolers involved in the study were given cognitive tests. The results revealed that those who used screens more than one hour a day had both lower emerging literacy skills and less ability to use expressive language and to name objects. On the contrary, the kids who often read books with their parents or caregivers scored better on the tests.

Finally, what is the best way to read with young children? Experts say there is no one "best" way, but they have some wise tips about how to engage kids to like or love reading. Here are 6 science-based suggestions compiled by the National Institute for Literacy:

1. Baby talk with your baby.
Respond as much as possible to your child's attempts to "baby talk" - from birth.

2. Sing the ABC song with your preschooler.
The more the better.

3. Help your preschooler make up stories.
Ask a lot of questions about those invented tales.

4. Find books with attractive characters.
Role play - using different voices and accents.

5. Have your preschooler point to letters, words and pictures.
And repeat and repeat and repeat.

6. Last but not least.
Enjoy yourself!

Picture: The red shows the increase in organized white matter in the language centers of the preschooler's brain (Cincinnati Children's Hospital)