The Surprising Thing That Might Make Your Kid a Better Reader

A study has found that a healthy diet can affect your kid's reading ability.

happy boy reading in library
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Could a healthy diet make your kid a better reader? Maybe, according to an interesting, if small, study out of Finland.

Researchers studied 161 students between the ages of 6 and 8 (first grade to third grade), comparing their diets—which had been recorded in food diaries—with their reading abilities determined by standardized test scores.

What they found and published in 2016 was pretty fascinating: Kids' reading skills improved more between first grade and third grade if they refrained from consuming a lot of sugary foods or red meat and if their diet consisted mainly of vegetables, fruits, fish, whole grains, and unsaturated fats. And get this—the healthier diet led to better reading skills by third grade, no matter how well the students could read in first grade.

How do you like them apples?

Interestingly, a healthier diet did not result in better math skills. "One reason for these observations may be that reading requires more complex cognitive functions than basic arithmetic calculations," the researchers postured. "Therefore, an unhealthy diet may be more strongly related to reading skills than arithmetic skills in children."

But what if you've got a picky eater on your hands? Does that mean it's time to toss out the Kindle? Not so fast. For one thing, the study is pretty small. And for another, the researchers only found an association between healthy foods and reading skills; they didn't prove cause-and-effect.

Still, it's another good reason to make sure our kids are eating well, and the researchers hope the findings will encourage parents and educators to advocate for healthier choices in schools.

"Parents and schools have an important role in making healthy foods available to children," they wrote. "Furthermore, governments and companies play a key role in promoting the availability and production of healthy foods."

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website for more, and then follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.

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