The University of London’s Institute of Education (IOE) has announced the release of a study showing that children who read for pleasure are likely to do significantly better at school than their peers. The study, which is one of the first to examine the effect of reading for pleasure on children’s cognitive development over time, finds that children who read for pleasure made more progress in learning math, vocabulary, and spelling between the ages of 10 and 16 than those who rarely read.
The research was conducted by IOE researchers Dr. Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown, who analyzed the reading behavior of approximately 6,000 children being followed by the 1970 British Cohort Study, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. They looked at how often the teenagers read during childhood and their test results in math, vocabulary, and spelling at ages 5, 10 and 16.
“It may seem surprising that reading for pleasure would help to improve children’s maths scores,” Sullivan says in the institute’s announcement. “But it is likely that strong reading ability will enable children to absorb and understand new information and affect their attainment in all subjects.”
The researchers compared children from the same social backgrounds who had achieved the same test scores as each other at age 5 and at age 10. Their finding? Kids who read often at age 10 and more than once a week at age 16 gained higher results at age 16 than those who read less regularly.
The study also found that reading for pleasure was found to be more important for children’s cognitive development between ages 10 and 16 than their parents’ level of education. The combined effect on kids’ progress of reading books often, going to the library regularly, and reading newspapers at 16 was four times greater than the advantage kids gained from having a parent with a degree.
In addition, the study found that kids who were read to regularly by their parents at age 5 performed better in all three tests at age 16 than those who were not helped in this way.