A new study found that reading bedtime stories to young children aids in their language development and reading readiness.

Researchers at the American Academy of Pediatrics involved 19 preschoolers with ages 3 to 5 in the study. Each caregiver was asked to complete a questionnaire to determine if their parents read to their children at home, if parents spend time to talk and play with them, and if parents are teaching their children to count and recognize shapes.

The children also underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) so that researchers could observe their brain activity while listening to stories. The brain activity measured the comprehension of the children.

The analysis showed that children with parents who read showed more comprehension of language. They also registered more brain activity, suggesting that they are able to imagine the story that they heard. The findings remain the same even after factoring household income.

"We are excited to show, for the first time, that reading exposure during the critical stage of development prior to kindergarten seems to have a meaningful, measurable impact on how a child's brain processes stories and may help predict reading success," John Hutton, study author from National Research Service Award Fellow, Division of General and Community Pediatrics, Reading and Literacy Discovery Center, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said in a news release.

"Of particular importance are brain areas supporting mental imagery, helping the child 'see the story' beyond the pictures, affirming the invaluable role of imagination."

The study is the first to provide evidence that reading to young children is beneficial to the development of their brains.

"We hope that this work will guide further research on shared reading and the developing brain to help improve interventions and identify children at risk for difficulties as early as possible, increasing the chances that they will be successful in the wonderful world of books," Dr. Hutton concluded.

The study was presented on April 25 at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) in San Diego.