The Importance of Reading for Children

While reading is beneficial for everyone, it is remarkably important for children and students as they develop and ascend through the levels of education. Reading assists kids’ growth as learners and people, improving their emotional intelligence and imagination, as well as strongly influencing their academic success. The ability to read is not only critical for navigating the adult world, but it is a key part of a young person’s accomplishments as they grow up.

A study published by The Journal of Multidisciplinary Graduate Research revealed a powerful link between recreational reading and academic achievement. According to the publication, “choosing to read self-selected literature for pleasure can, and did, improve academic performance.”1 On average, students who pleasure read experienced a .11% increase in their English scores, 1.71% increase in science, 4.43% increase in mathematics, and a 2.05% increase in history.1

Additional data supports these findings, indicating a clear link between reading and academic success for younger children as well as teenagers. Children who are read to by a family member at least three times per week are “almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading” than those who are not read to as frequently.2 In fact, the mere presence and quantity of books in the home (and the increased likelihood that the kids are reading) “correlates significantly with higher literacy scores for children.”2 A 2011 study even discovered a link between a student’s reading ability in third grade and their likelihood of graduating high school. Children who read below proficiency in third grade are 4x more likely to not graduate high school. Of the students who drop out of high school, only 4% are proficient readers, meaning most dropouts have insufficient reading skills and are, therefore, disadvantaged in the workplace and in other areas of life.3 Meanwhile, Edinburg University’s Timothy Bates and Stuart Ritchie’s findings reveal that a student who can read well at 7 years old earns a higher income and experiences a higher standard of living later in life than their peers with a lower reading level at that age.4

Jerry Diakiw of the HuffPost dubbed one’s childhood reading ability “one of the least expected predictors of life success.”4 A student’s reading score on the PISA—an assessment that measures the reading, math, and science abilities and knowledge of 15-year-olds around the world—is the number one predictor of university attendance, “even pre-empting other socio-economic factors.”4

This is partially because of the way reading builds skills that are applicable to various other subjects. Reading is a powerful tool for developing critical thinking, reading comprehension, and communication skills, which not only allows students to accel in literature classes, but also in mathematics, science, and in their future careers.1 Studies have also proven that, when beginning at a young age, reading actually makes kids smarter, increasing their intelligence and helping them compensate for “modest levels of cognitive ability.”5

Books, however, do more than improve kids’ academic performance, increase their intelligence, and boost their chances of success. Kids reap many benefits from integrating reading into their lives.

Reading builds kids’ imaginations by stimulating their senses and inspiring their creativity. Books heap a large workload on the reader, as the reader is responsible for interpreting the text and turning words into sights and sounds in their mind’s eye, a process that teaches them to use their brains imaginatively. Similarly, stories give kids a preview of life to come by introducing them to and preparing them for situations and experiences they may encounter in the future. Reading is also known to increase empathy, and, in turn, can help kids develop their moral codes as they contemplate good and evil, watch characters navigate social situations, and develop a deeper sense of compassion for their fellow people.6

Reading is a necessary part of growing up. Everyone learns it in school and requires it throughout their adult lives. However, kids who read often and well are advantaged over those who do not, and integrating reading into one’s childhood increases their chances of success in school and life.

  1. Whitten, Christy et al. “The Impact of Pleasure Reading on Success.” The Journal of Multidisciplinary Graduate Research. https://www.shsu.edu/academics/education/journal-of-multidisciplinary-graduate-research/documents/2016/WhittenJournalFinal.pdf
  2. “30 Key Literacy Stats Parents Need to be Aware of.” Literacy Project. 14 Feb. 2019. https://literacyproj.org/2019/02/14/30-key-child-literacy-stats-parents-need-to-be-aware-of/
  3. Hernandez, Donald J. “Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation.” Eric. Apr. 2011. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED518818
  4. Diakiw, Jerry. “Reading and Life Success.” HuffPost. 4 May 2017. https://www.huffpost.com/archive/ca/entry/reading-and-life-success_b_16404148
  5. “Why Should Kids Read?” Reading by Phonetics. https://www.readingbyphonics.com/early-start/why-should-children-read.html
  6. “Why Do Kids Need Books.” The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance. https://thencbla.org/advocacy/why-do-kids-need-books/

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