Stuffed animals may serve another purpose than just a toy to cuddle with. In a new Japanese study, researchers found that the use of stuffed animals promotes reading habits in children.
For the study, the research team employed a stuffed animal program, in which 42 preschoolers were asked to bring their stuffed animals to the library, and the stuffed animals searched for the picture books they would like to read. Results showed that after participating in the program, children read significantly more.
Dr. Yoshihiro Okazaki, principle investigator of the study explains,
“Surprisingly, not only did the children show interest in the picture books, but they also began to read to their stuffed animals. This means that a new behavior pattern emerged that the children had not exhibited before; we did not expect anything like this.”
These types of programs are run all over the world and not just in Japan, but this study was the first to look at the effectiveness of these programs.
Reading is important both for developing a child’s literacy and language skills, and for building their imagination. It is also important that children read books themselves, versus having parents read to them, as this helps them become active readers instead of passive listeners.
While the study did show that the use of a stuffed animal increases reading in children, researchers found that these effects wore off after three days. They recommend continuously reminding the children of the stuffed animal program to ensure reading levels stay up.