Teddy Bears and Dolls Can Help Kids Develop Reading Habits

NDTV Food  |  Updated: March 01, 2017 13:38 IST

Teddy Bears and Dolls Can Help Kids Develop Reading Habits
  • Your child's stuffed companion may help induce reading habits
  • Stuffed animal sleepovers are an effective way to get children to read
  • Stuffed animal sleepover programs were designed to encourage reading
No matter a girl or a boy, everyone once had a non-living stuffed friend, which was most loved by them during their childhood. It might be a bear, a doll, a puppy or any other cotton-stuffed animal, which accompanies your adorable infant everywhere. As we already know that children live in their own world filled with adventure and fantasy, and evidently feel safe and playful around their favorite toys. A recent study found that your child's stuffed companion may help induce reading habits in them. Researchers in the study said that sending kids with stuffed animals for a sleepover at the library encourages them to read, even long after the sleepover took place. This is the first time that a study proves stuffed animal sleepovers are an effective way to get children to read.

The results of the study indicated that stuffed animal sleepover programs may help develop children's prosocial behavior by encouraging them to read the books the stuffed animals had chosen during their sleepover.

The researchers from Okayama University, Kanazawa University, Osaka Institute of Technology and Kyushu University in Japan said that they hope their results support the global spread of this approach, which has a positive effect on children's reading habits.

Stuffed animal sleepover programs were designed to get children interested in picture books. Children took their toys to a library for the night, where the animals searched for books they want to read. Meanwhile, the staff and volunteers clicked pictures of the stuffed toys. The children collected their stuffed animals and the photos of what they did during the night, on the next day. They were also given the books their animals chose to read. The sleep programs were run all around the world for the results, but until now there was no scientific evidence that they have an impact on children's reading habits. This research revealed that children who took part in stuffed animal sleepover programs read picture books to their stuffed animals significantly more.
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Lead author of the study, Dr. Yoshihiro Okazaki said, "We wanted to know if there really was an effect, and if so, how long it lasts. Surprisingly, not only did the children show interest in the picture books, but they also began to read to their stuffed animals. This means that a new behavior pattern emerged that the children had not exhibited before; we did not expect anything like this."
Children's language skills and imagination are highly influenced by reading. When parents read to their children, it is a passive form of reading for the child. But when children read to their stuffed animals, it is a more spontaneous, self-directed form of reading, helping them develop into more active readers. A "book-night party" - a typical stuffed animal sleepover program - for 42 preschool children was organized by the team. The researchers studied the children's behavior that day, after three days and after one month, to determine the effect and how long it lasts.

CommentsBefore the activity the children did not spend time reading the books in their play area at preschool while immediately after the sleepover, the number of children who read to the stuffed animals was significantly higher than the number who did not. The effect worn off after three days of the activity conducted. The researchers then tested a way for sustaining the effect. For which they reminded the children of the sleepover a month later, by hiding the stuffed animals and showing them the photos again the next day. This simple method led to a significant increase in the number of children reading to their stuffed animals.

Dr. Okazaki added, "The photographs captured the children's imagination - many children believed the stuffed animals really found the books. But not every child who participated in the program began reading to the stuffed animals. There were individual differences in the results of this program. Because early childhood is the period when children begin to distinguish between fantasy and reality, their tendency to fantasize would be one factor that determines the effect of the stuffed animal sleepover."

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