Want to boost your kids' academic performance? Give them a good book to read

Researchers found that "reading is a fundamental skill that plays a key part in all our lives"

03 March 2020 - 09:26 By AFP Relaxnews
Children who read books every day may perform better at school, according to new research.
Children who read books every day may perform better at school, according to new research.
Image: m-gucci / iStock via AFP Relaxnews

New European research has found that reading high-quality books daily could boost a child's academic performance.

Led by the University of Malaga and University College London, the new study looked at questionnaire responses from more than 43,000 Spanish children which were completed when they were aged ten to 11 and again when they were 13 to 14.

The questionnaires asked the children about what they read (such as books, comics, short stories, newspapers and magazines), how much time they spent reading, their attitudes towards school, and their achievement levels in school. The children's parents were also asked about their own reading habits and how involved they were in their child's education.

The findings, published in the journal Oxford Review of Education, showed that the more frequently children read books at age ten to 11, the better they performed in school tests at age 13 to 14.

More specifically, the pupils who enjoy reading high-quality books every day or nearly every day scored higher by an average of 0.22 points overall on literacy tests than those who read books almost never, which the researchers say is the equivalent of 3 months' worth of additional secondary school academic growth.

Regular reading also appeared to have a positive effect on other academic tests, with these children also showing a difference of around 0.20 standard deviations in mathematics.

"Although three months' worth of progress may sound comparatively small to some people, it equates to more than 10 percent of the three academic secondary school years measured — from when these young people are aged 11 years old to 14, which we know is a hugely developmental period," explains co-author Professor John Jerrim, from the UCL.

However, the researchers found no benefit when children read newspapers, comics or magazines on a daily basis and only a small benefit from reading short stories.

"In an increasingly digital world, it's important that young people are encouraged to find time to read a good book," said Jerrim.

"Other less complex and less engaging forms of reading are unlikely to bring the same benefits for their cognitive development, and shouldn't be counted as part of their reading time.

"This is particularly important for low-achievers, where any association is likely to be strongest."

Lead researcher Luis Alejandro Lopez-Agudo, from the University of Malaga, also added that, "Reading is a fundamental skill that plays a key part in all our lives."

"Our results provide further evidence that it's not only whether young people read or not that matters — but also what they read."