Children who read do better socially
Children and young people who read a lot end up higher on the social ladder. This is the conclusion made by PhD candidate Suzanne Mol on the basis of 146 international, academic studies. More than 10,000 children and students aged between 2 and 22 participated in the studies. Mol obtained her doctorate on Tuesday 7 December at Leiden University.
It makes a big difference whether or not children and students read books. Being read to and reading oneself sets a positive spiral in motion. Primary school children, secondary school children and students who read in their free time are increasingly better at reading when compared with their peers who read less often.
A meta analysis of all the research that has been carried out up to now on early childhood to young adulthood shows that readers score higher not only on language and reading skills but also on success at school and intelligence. The meta-analysis also shows that the effect of reading increases with each school year – a result that points to a reciprocal relationship between reading and cognition: they influence each other reciprocally. The readers’ vocabulary increases further and they score better on reading speed, spelling and text understanding than their peers who do not read in their spare time. The meta-analysis also shows that for weaker readers reading is essential for the development of basic skills.
Picture books enable children to become familiar with the world of stories and written text. Mol’s dissertation research shows that infants who are read to from an early age do not just know more meanings of words than their peers who start school without much experience of being read to but also already know more names and sounds of letters. The study also confirms the theory that children learn more words and letters if parents and teachers ask questions while they read to them and link the events in the story to experiences in daily life.
Mol does add some nuance to the prevailing opinion that it is necessary to read interactively by stating that not all children benefit equally from ‘being read to interactively’. Reading to children interactively proves the least effective where intervention is needed most: in families with little experience of books and in playgroups and reception classes where the teacher mainly reads to children who have an increased risk of delayed language and reading. In these groups in particular, it is therefore important to invest more in children.(7 December 2010)