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A Story Before Nap Time Could Improve Learning for Toddlers

Update Date: Feb 17, 2014 01:26 PM EST

Several studies have found that reading or talking to young children frequently can greatly improve their ability to learn. In a new study, psychologists Dr. Jessica Horst and Sophie Williams, a Ph.D. candidate, examined the effects of reading to young children right before their naptime. They concluded that children who had story time before napping ended up scoring higher on word-learning tasks in comparison to children who had story time but did not nap. .

For this study, the researchers recruited 48 children from Great Britain. Half of the children took regular afternoon naps whereas the other half did not. All of the children were read either one story or three different ones. Despite the different stories, all of children were exposed to the same number of unfamiliar words. The researchers tested the children at three points, which were two and a half hours after the story, 24 hours later and an entire week later.

The team found that children who had listened to the same story before napping performed better on word-learning tasks than children who did not take any naps. For children who were read three different stories before napping, they performed 33 percent better on these tasks in comparison to the children who stayed awake. The team reported that during the later tests, the children who never napped had greater difficulty with word recall.

"Overall, all of the children in the study did very well-reading is always good, at any age and any time. But, children who were learning something particularly difficult (new words from several stories) especially benefited from hearing the stories right before sleeping. In fact, these children ended up learning the words as well as the children who had heard the same stories again and again, which we knew would be easier," Horst said according to Medical Xpress.

Recent numbers reveal that more and more children are sleeping less than ever before. The researchers stated that based on their findings, getting children to take naps or sleep the recommended amount of hours is very important.

"In fact, findings like those from the current study indicate we should be encouraging young children to nap and should take advantage of the period right before they nap for instruction in key academic areas such as word learning and arithmetic," Horst said.

The findings were published in Developmental Psychology.

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