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Kids who read by themselves each day score better on school tests

Researchers found that books benefitted kids’ academic performance more than other reading materials

Photo (c) fizkes - Getty Images
While previous studies have highlighted the benefits of parents reading with their kids, a new study explored how reading independently can help kids in the classroom. 

According to researchers, children scored higher on tests when they read books on a daily basis. Books are key, as other forms of reading, such as comics or magazines, didn’t yield the same academic results. 

“In an increasingly digital world, it’s important that young people are encouraged to find time to read a good book,” said researcher John 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.” 

Making reading a habit

The researchers had 43,000 children between the ages of 10 and 11 participate in the study. The participants and their parents completed questionnaires that assessed the children’s typical reading habits, their attitudes towards reading and school, parents’ feelings about reading, and how often parents read. 

The researchers compared responses to children’s standardized test scores and then reassessed the children when they were 13 and 14 years old. The study revealed that children who read books daily outperformed their classmates who either didn’t read or opted for magazines or comic books. 

The researchers found that the increase in test scores matched an additional three months worth of formal schooling, which can ultimately benefit children as they continue through their studies. 

“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,” Jerrim said. 

Better math scores

Reading regularly also boosted kids’ test scores in math, as they showed similar levels of progress on math exams over the course of the study.  

The findings are proof that making reading a daily habit can help kids excel in the classroom, and books play a key role in that success. 

“Reading is a fundamental skill that plays a key part in all our lives,” said researcher Luis Alejandro Lopez-Agudo. “Our results provide further evidence that it’s not only whether young people read or not that matters -- but also what they read.”  

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