Giving kids books as presents always feels good. It might not elicit the joy that a new gadget might, but there is comfort to knowing that what you are giving is unambiguously good for them and not potentially addling their brains.
What about audiobooks? Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and author of the 2015 Raising Kids Who Read, says audiobooks are a wonderful way to fill time that might otherwise not have been filled. “Print may be best for lingering over words or ideas, but audiobooks add literacy to moments where there would otherwise be none,” he wrote recently in the New York Times.
In a series of videos on Willingham’s blog, he goes into more detail about how listening and reading complement each other. Evolutionarily speaking, reading is quite new (dating back 6,000 years or so). We don’t know what mental processes support reading, because there’s no part of the brain assigned to reading comprehension. We do know, though that the brain evolved to make sense of oral language. “Reading comprehension is like vision, it’s not specialized, it’s piggy backing on oral language comprehension,” Willingham says.
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