Reading & Reacting: Maths advantage for pupils who read for pleasure

Image: Child Reading

Photo courtesy of BBC

By Katherine Sellgren @ BBC News – Education & Family

The Institute of Education at London University tracked the reading habits of 6000 British children, revealing some fascinating conclusions about the benefits of pleasure reading. While there is nothing startling about the prospects that pleasure reading would have a positive impact on a child’s academics, this study attempts to quantify the premise with a bit more precision.

The title of this article is a little deceptive, highlighting that pleasure reading leads to an advantage in studying mathematics as well. For me, the most noticeable bit was the claim that pleasure reading has a greater impact on a child’s academics than having a parent with a degree.

The findings showed those who had read often at the age of 10 and had been reading books and newspapers more than once a week aged 16 had performed better than those who had read less.

There was a 14.4% advantage in vocabulary, a 9.9% advantage in maths and an 8.6% advantage in spelling, the research found, once parents’ background and reading habits were taken into account.

The study said: “The influence of reading for pleasure was greater than that for having a parent with a degree.”

The total effect on children’s progress of reading often – reading newspapers at age 16 and being a regular library user – was four times greater than the advantage of having a university-educated parent, the study suggested.

Again, that last bit is what is startling. While this study was conducted in the United Kingdom, it is a strong endorsement for not only finding ways to encourage children to read for pleasure but giving them the time to do it.

Of course, there may very well be statistical difference were this study to be conducted in the United States, but it is hard to believe that there would not be a statistically significant similarities. Nevertheless, a study of this kind, from the Institute of Education, shows the benefits of pleasure reading in much shaper relief, which are likely to apply far beyond the United Kingdom.

Here is a link to the actual study, ‘Social inequalities in cognitive scores at age 16: The role of reading,’ by Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown.

Image: iPad

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