Why do we keep returning to the message that reading is an incredibly important skill for absolutely everyone? With benefits this concrete and important, why wouldn’t we? Reading is linked to tons of desired outcomes:
- Increased reading speed and comprehension
- Enhanced verbal intelligence
- Greater command of language and vocabulary
- Higher levels of happiness, calm, and connection to your community
- Higher average annual incomes
Not sold yet? Wait, there’s more! A 2023 study out of University of Cambridge found that Reading for pleasure early in childhood linked to better cognitive performance and mental wellbeing in adolescence:
“Children who begin reading for pleasure early in life tend to perform better at cognitive tests and have better mental health when they enter adolescence, a study of more than 10,000 young adolescents in the US has found…
The team found a strong link between reading for pleasure at an early age and a positive performance in adolescence on cognitive tests that measured such factors as verbal learning, memory and speech development, and at school academic achievement.
These children also had better mental wellbeing, as assessed using a number of clinical scores and reports from parents and teachers, showing fewer signs of stress and depression, as well as improved attention and fewer behavioural problems such as aggression and rule-breaking.
Children who began reading for pleasure earlier also tended to spend less screen time – for example watching TV or using their smartphone or tablet – during the week and at weekends in their adolescence, and also tended to sleep longer.”
Who wouldn’t want their children to perform better in school, show stronger mental wellbeing, and get more sleep? Researchers in this study even found that participants who had taken to reading for pleasure at an early age “showed moderately larger total brain areas and volumes, including in particular brain regions that play critical roles in cognitive functions.”
You’d imagine that the long list of academic, emotional, physical, and economic benefits that accrue to early readers might come at a cost, and you’d be right. However, the investment required is not only cheap and easy, but carries its own rewards:
“The optimal amount of reading for pleasure as a young child was around 12 hours per week. Beyond this, there appeared to be no additional benefits. In fact, there was a gradual decrease in cognition, which the researchers say may be because it suggests they are spending more time sedentary and less time at other activities that could be cognitively enriching, including sports and social activities.”