Can Reading Aloud to Children Help Curb Childhood Obesity?

Maybe, just maybe, reading aloud with children does even more good than we think. I’ll be the first to admit that this might be kind of a long shot here. But I read an Associated Press article recently that started me thinking in this direction. The article mentioned that watching fast-paced television shows can lessen a young child’s self-control…and we can all probably agree that self-control is something four-year-olds do not have a lot of to begin with.

Part of the study – the part that interested me – showed that after nine minutes of either watching a fast-paced cartoon, a slow-paced cartoon, or drawing pictures, three groups of children were timed to see how long they would wait to eat some snacks that were provided for them. The kids that had drawn pictures or watched the slower-paced cartoon waited nearly twice as long as the group that had watched the fast-paced cartoon.

Based on this study, the Associated Press article quoted Angeline Lillard, a University of Virginia psychology professor, as saying that “young children are compromised in their ability to…use self-control immediately after watching such [fast-paced] shows.”

According to this study, fast-paced television shows are shows where characters interact at a very rapid speed and there may be three or more scene changes per minute. This is in contrast to naturally paced shows, which feature interactions between characters at an average human speed and have fewer scene changes.

This study may not be the final word on this subject, but the possibility of a connection between slower-paced interaction for/with children and an increased ability to exercise self-control intrigues me. I believe strongly in the value of reading aloud with kids. It’s a great naturally paced interaction that allows parents and kids to spend time together, learn  together, and talk together. The pace can be adjusted by the parent according to the needs of their child. And if this also helps kids to learn a little more self-control, it’s a (previously unsuspected) added bonus to the value of reading aloud together.  After all, kids with more  self-control are less likely to have tantrums, slightly less likely to demand instant gratification all the time, and are possibly more able to exercise that self-control when it comes to the quantity and quality of the foods they like to eat. Okay, maybe it won’t stop the epidemic of childhood obesity. But it’s something to think about…after all, any added ability to exercise self-control in a four-year-old is a good thing!


  1. Karen says:

    Idle hands… I see that when my son is really engaged in what he is doing, eating is at the bottom of his agenda. Once the activity or event is complete, food is magically back at the top!

  2. Karen says:

    But I have never looked at the relationship the type of activity and time elapsing before requesting food…. I’ll look out for this though.

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