Before entering school, children’s ability to identify letters and sounds is an indicator of their reading and writing skills. Conversely, children with difficulties in this area are at greater risk of one day being diagnosed with dyslexia or dysortography.
A study published March 29 in the journal Child Development looked at the relationship between sleep, memory development and literacy skills. It was carried out on 32 children aged 3 to 5 by researchers from Macquarie University (Australia) and the British universities of Oxford, York and Sheffield and tentatively confirms that a daytime nap could be beneficial for their learning of letters and sounds . These children were enrolled in two day care centers in Sydney, where they regularly napped without being formally taught the name or the sound of the letters.
Each child was enrolled in seven sessions lasting 2 to 4 weeks. First, the scientists evaluated and documented their knowledge “verbal” Basic. Then they trained them to match letters and sounds. For example, by having to answer the question “What sound does the letter C make?” in front of a corresponding picture or, to estimate the generalization of this knowledge, the drawing of two men “tav” and «Cave» and to determine which of the two was /kav/.
These tests should be performed once after the child’s nap and then at weekly intervals without this rest period. Each time (with or without a nap), the effects of exercise were assessed 24 hours later.
It turns out that a post-study nap seems to help reinvest the newly learned information into a new task. The researchers observed a positive effect of the midday rest on children’s learning of letter-sound correspondences and in particular on the use of this knowledge to decipher unfamiliar words. An absolutely positive sign for future ease of reading and writing.
Aside from the modest sample size, one of the study’s flaws lies in one of its qualities: while it was conducted in real-world conditions, rather than in the lab, to make the children feel more comfortable, the researchers were unable to measure objective data supporting the results could affect, such as various physiological characteristics of sleep, not to mention the genetic variables that we now know have a strong impact on learning to sleep, read and write. The fact remains that these data are encouraging and, if replicated and refined in later work, have the potential to further optimize literacy acquisition in very young children.