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Children want to read about how and why things happen

Children may be more motivated to read books that teach them why and how things happen, according to a new study published by Frontiers. Children have a strong desire to understand the way the world works, which explains why they tend to prefer storybooks that contain more causal information. 

The study findings could help parents and teachers choose books that will boost a child’s interest in reading. This engagement plays an important role in early literacy and language skills.

While it comes as no surprise that the imaginative minds of children are drawn to causal information, researchers have not fully explored the potential link between scientific enthusiasm and real-world activities such as reading.

“There has been a lot of research on children’s interest in causality, but these studies almost always take place in a research lab using highly contrived procedures and activities,” explained  Margaret Shavlik of Vanderbilt University. “We wanted to explore how this early interest in causal information might affect everyday activities with young children – such as joint book reading.”

It is very beneficial for children to feel eager to read, and choosing the right books can help keep them motivated. 

To investigate whether children may prefer books with more causal information, the researchers conducted a study involving 48 children between the ages of three and four years old. 

An adult read two strategically-matched storybooks to the children, and then asked them about their preferences.

“We read children two books: one rich with causal information, in this case, about why animals behave and look the way they do, and another one that was minimally causal, instead just describing animals’ features and behaviors,” said Shavlik.

The children appeared to be just as interested in both types of books. On the other hand, when the kids were asked which book they liked best, the book loaded with causal information was chosen most of the time.

“We believe this result may be due to children’s natural desire to learn about how the world works,” explained Shavlik. “If children do indeed prefer storybooks with causal explanations, adults might seek out more causality rich books to read with children – which might in turn increase the child’s motivation to read together, making it easier to foster early literacy.”

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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