Should Your Child Read More?
How keeping books in the home can lessen mental decline at an older age.
What is the difference between a child who reads for pleasure at home and a child who doesn’t? Recent studies have shown that those who read for pleasure have an increased rate of learning. The British Cohort Study, which followed more than 17,000 people born in a single week in the 1970s, found evidence that reading helps learning rates improve. The ongoing study interviews participants every few years, tracking different aspects of their lives. Researchers can see how reading impacts development over time by looking at factors such as education, employment, and physical and mental health.
Once the participants were 16 years of age, 6,000 of the participants agreed to take a series of cognitive tests. The study then compared children from similar backgrounds, who were tested similarly at ages five and ten, to those who participated in the original study. Interestingly, they found that children who read more books at age ten and sixteen had higher scores on cognitive tests than those who read less. Not only did children’s reading abilities improve as they read more at home, but they were more advanced in subjects like vocabulary, mathematics, and spelling. Academic success in children who read more was found to be four times greater than the impact of having a parent with a college or university degree.
How does reading for fun have such a great impact on improving intelligence and learning?
Reading introduces children to new words at a young age, which then leads to improved vocabulary development. A link that is less often recognized is between reading and improvement in math. Since reading introduces children to new ideas, new vocabulary, and new ideas, it also helps children understand new information and concepts. In turn, children can grasp new ideas in school more easily and have a more self-sufficient approach to learning.
With the growing age of technology and screens, young children spend less time reading in their spare time than generations before them. This is becoming a significant concern because the research backs up the statement that when children read less, it negatively affects their intellectual development. Since reading for pleasure already declines in secondary school, it is crucial to ensure this decline does not increase at younger ages. Schools, libraries, and homes need to provide a wide access and encouragement to reading. Giving children access to different books gives them a chance to discover new authors or genres that they love reading!
Furthermore, it is important to question whether reading for pleasure continues into adulthood. Right now, the study is continuing to help answer this question. The same group of participants from the 1970s are being interviewed once again, to help understand how reading for pleasure in childhood translated into adulthood. They are asked about their reading habits and other parts of their lives. The study will then be able to determine how reading as a child protects against cognitive decline, an important aspect to observe.
What can you do to help your child? For starters, encourage reading at a young age by reading with them. Reading stories with your child will get them interested in being able to read on their own. Help them begin to read by encouraging them with starter books, reading signs, or any words they see. Once your child is ready to start reading independently, take them to your local public library and sign them up for their own library card. This sense of independence and control over their reading will get them excited about books. Remember, reading starting from a young age will go a long way.