Daytime naps could boost reading skills among preschoolers, a new study finds. An international team says children learning what letters correspond to what sounds do better on tests if they have some sleep before the exam.
A child’s ability to match letters with sounds during preschool is a common measure of early literacy skills. Kids who perform well tend to become more literate and perform better in reading tests when they get older. However, study authors say how sleep affects children’s memory and reading skills has been unclear until now.
“Having a nap after learning might facilitate the capacity to utilize newly learned information in a new task,” says study author Dr. Hua-Chen Wang at Macquarie University in a media release.
“We found a positive nap effect on children’s learning of letter-sound mappings, and in particular, using that knowledge to read unfamiliar words.”
A total of 32 children between three and five years old who napped regularly took part in the study. Each child attended seven sessions over two to four weeks which began by evaluating their ability to pair letters and sounds.
The children took part in a letter-sound mapping exercise without taking a nap beforehand. They then repeated the exercise a week later, but this time after getting some rest. Afterward, the team assessed the group’s ability to match letters and sounds using a series of tests.
Children tended to perform better on the printed test after enjoying a daytime nap. The benefits of taking a nap on a young child’s ability to match sounds and letters stayed the same the following day.
The findings were published in the journal Child Development.