Harvard and MIT researchers have found that the more reading schoolkids do over the summer, the more their brains develop—and those who struggle with reading and come from low-income households stand to make the most impressive gains.
Rachel Romeo, MSc, and colleagues published their findings online June 7 in Cerebral Cortex.
The team evaluated 40 children with reading disability who were assigned to a rigorous six-week reading program. The children ranged in age from 6 to 9 and came from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.
The researchers compared these results with a control group of 25 similarly reading-challenged children in the same age range who were placed on a waiting list for the assignment.
Before and after the six-week intervention, all 65 children completed standardized reading assessments and were scanned with brain MRI to measure cortical thickness.
At baseline, higher socioeconomic status correlated with greater vocabulary and greater thickness in several regions of the cerebral cortex, the authors report.
After the completion of the program, within the intervention group, lower socioeconomic status corresponded not only with more marked improvement in reading skills but also with greater cortical thickening across broad, bilateral occipitotemporal and temporoparietal regions.
Meanwhile, the control group as well as 19 nonresponders within the intervention group “exhibited developmentally typical, nonsignificant cortical thinning,” the authors write.
“These findings indicate that effective summer reading intervention is coupled with cortical growth,” conclude Romeo et al., “and is especially beneficial for children with reading disability who come from lower-socioeconomic status home environments.”