According to a recent study from the Institute of Education in London, children between the ages of 10 and 16 who read for pleasure are significantly better at math, spelling and vocabulary compared to their peers.
The study, conducted by Dr. Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown, examined 6,000 young people who had been observed by a 1970 British cohort study. The study focused on how often teenagers read during childhood and their subsequent scores in math, vocabulary, and spelling at ages 5, 10, and 16.
Related Article: Brazilian Prisoners Read Their Way to Freedom
The study found that:
those who read books often at age 10 and more than once a week at age 16 gained higher results in all three tests at age 16 than those who read less regularly.
As a lifelong, daily pleasure-reader myself, this struck me as remarkable news. Reading for pleasure, something I find incredibly entertaining and engaging, has been shown to be intellectually beneficial, even in the realm of math!
The best part of the study though is that the researchers found that reading for pleasure is even more important for cognitive development than the parent’s level of education.
The combined effect on children’s progress of reading books often, going to the library regularly and reading newspapers at 16 was four times greater than the advantage children gained from having a parent with a degree.
This means that we are in control of our cognitive development in the same way that we can exact change on our genetic dispositions through epigenetic markers. However, parents can still play a vital role in their child’s development by reading regularly to their kids. Children at age 5 who had parents who read to them scored better in all three tests when they were 16 compared to children without bedtime stories.
Related Article: Neocortex: How Human Memory Works and How We Learn
While it is surprising that reading for pleasure can have such a wide array of benefits on the mind, Dr. Sullivan explained that:
It may seem surprising that reading for pleasure would help to improve children’s maths scores, 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 study showed that it is also highly important for parents to use a high vocabulary when speaking to their children as this will greatly boost the child’s vocabulary from an early age.
As Dr. Sullivan notes in her conclusions, it is is important to encourage children to read for pleasure. One of the best ways to do this is to show children the fun of reading. Turn off the television and explore a world written on pages with your child. Go to those worlds with them from an early age, and they will likely continue to independently read for pleasure for the rest of their lives.
Related Article: TVs, Brains and Zombies, Oh My: The Effects of TV on the Mind
Find out what your child is truly interested in, be it mystery, science fiction, fantasy, drama, romance, adventure, etc. and shower them in books. Their superior intelligence will be all the thanks you need.