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Studies of Kids and Reading We’ve Been Catching Up On This Week

November 20, 2015

boy reading on couch image via pixabay creative commonsWhat exactly is it that reading does for us, and how does reading as a child change us as adults?

At Better Reading Kids, we’re big readers and we love sharing the joy of reading with kids.

We also know that reading has academic, emotional and social benefits for kids and we’re always interested to discover more about those aspects.

This week we’ve been catching up on the results of various studies, including that:

Reading for pleasure as a child has a substantial influence on your vocabulary years later – even into your 40s.

Researchers at the UK’s Institute of Education found that those who read for pleasure as kids scored higher in vocabulary tests than infrequent childhood readers, even allowing for other factors such as social advantage.

Why? The researchers, Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown, speculate that it ‘may well be because the frequent childhood readers continued to read throughout their twenties and thirties. In other words, they developed “good” reading habits in childhood and adolescence that they have subsequently benefited from.’

Read more of the study and statistics in the IOC press release here.

starting school book coverReading builds ‘executive functioning skills’ which are essential for school success

Research by Professor Susan Walker of the Queensland University of Technology has found that reading at home has the single greatest influence on children’s ability to ‘pay attention in class, stay focused on tasks, and keep belongings organised’ – skills which are even more important than reading, writing or counting when kids start school. (Source: Sydney Morning Herald.)

Kids who are read to regularly perform better in maths as well as language and literacy

Professor Walker has also found that ‘despite children coming from low socioeconomic backgrounds, for example, if they are read to on a daily basis, they are still performing better in language, literacy and maths four years later than children who weren’t read to regularly.’

Children who are read to daily prior to starting formal schooling perform better at:

  • understanding of place value
  • making reasonable estimates of quantities
  • using a variety of strategies to solve maths problems
  • understanding and interpreting stories
  • reading age-appropriate books independently
  • composing stories.

(Source:  QUT)

And – this one surprised us – kids like to read or listen to factual stories more than fantasy, more often than adults:

We tend to think of childhood as a time of imagination, and certainly most of the books and stories which have stuck with us from our own childhoods are fictional.

However, when researchers from the University of Oklahoma and Yale University looked into different readers’ preferences for ‘make-believe stories’ over ‘stories that actually happened’, they found that children were significantly more likely to prefer fact over fiction!

Children were also significantly more likely to select the factual stories than were adults, who chose factual and make-believe stories equally often.

According to a report by NPR, the explanation for this is that ‘Children are still learning about the real world. What’s routine for us might be novel for them. In fact, we know that children (and adults) can learn from fictional stories, but children more readily apply what they’ve learned when the story is realistic as opposed to fantastical.’ (Read the full NPR story here.)

What will you and your kids be reading this week? Please tell us in comments below. And if you like this story, please consider sharing it using the social buttons.

For more on kids and reading:

Our article on what happens to kids’ brains when they listen to a story, how picture books can develop vocabulary, and the Number 1 reason kids enjoy being read to

Our article on how reading boosts self esteem, creativity, friendship and good sleep

Our article on how eating dinner together can help kids with reading

Our article about how bedtime reading can set up lifetime habits to deal with stress and how older kids love being read to

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