Reading for pleasure increases cognitive progress

A new working paper from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies sets out to examine socio-economic inequalities in cognitive test scores at age 16. In particular, the authors were interested in whether reading for pleasure was linked to cognitive progress.

The study found that children who read for pleasure at the ages of 10 and 16 made more progress in maths, vocabulary, and spelling between the ages of 10 and 16 than those who rarely read, even after controlling for parental social background and parents’ own reading behaviour. The largest gains were for vocabulary. From a policy perspective, the authors say this strongly supports the need to support and encourage children’s reading in their leisure time.

The research also showed that parents’ education was far more important for children’s performance in cognitive tests than parents’ economic resources. The home reading culture, including reading to the child, reading books and newspapers, and having problems with reading, was also significantly linked to children’s test scores. This had a relatively strong role in mediating the influence of parents’ education, and a smaller role in mediating parents’ material resources.

The study used data on a sample of around 6,000 young people being followed as part of the 1970 British Cohort Study and the scores from maths, vocabulary, and spelling tests taken when they were aged 16.

Source: Social Inequalities in Cognitive Scores at Age 16: The Role of Reading (2013), Centre for Longitudinal Studies.

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