Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center recently developed a new screening tool that can help to assess preschoolers’ early literacy skills—and the first of its kind type of tool uses a specially designed children’s book.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at how well The Reading House (TRH) book-based assessment tool could identify early literacy skills in children ages three through five. Seventy preschoolers completed standardized assessments and 52 completed MRI’s to measure the gray matter surface of their brains.
photo: Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels
The researchers found a connection between a thicker gray matter, or cortex, and higher TRH scores. Of the results, TRH book designer John Hutton, MD said, “We found significantly thicker gray matter cortex in the left-sided areas of the brain in children with higher TRH scores, which align with cortical thickness patterns found in older children and adults with higher reading skills.” Hutton continued, “This is an important neurobiological correlate of screened skills at this formative age, when the brain is growing rapidly.”
While the TRH book assessment is designed for use in pediatric healthcare, early education settings, and schools, its potential extends into the greater community and into the individual child’s life. Hutton noted, “By screening early during pediatric clinic visits, especially in practices serving disadvantaged families, we can hopefully target effective interventions that help children better prepare for kindergarten and improve reading outcomes––literally ‘shaping their brains to read.’ ”