Articles about reading

How wider reading can support academic ability

Nov 2023
Children who read for pleasure are likely to do significantly better at school.

The Institute of Education has reported that children who read for pleasure are likely to do significantly better at school than their peers.

The IOE study found that children who read for pleasure made more progress in maths, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of 10 and 16 than those who rarely read.

The research analysed the behaviour of 6,000 young people, looking at how often children read for pleasure and the relation to their test results in maths, vocabulary and spelling at the ages of five, ten and 16. They discovered that those who read books often at age ten, and more than once a week at age 16, gained higher results in all three tests at age 16 than those who read less regularly.

The research was conducted by Dr Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown. Dr Sullivan noted that reading for pleasure had the strongest effect on children's vocabulary development, but the impact on spelling and maths was still significant. She said: "It may seem surprising that reading for pleasure would help to improve children's maths scores, but it is likely that strong reading ability will enable children to absorb and understand new information and affect their attainment in all subjects."

At Kumon, we believe developing a love for reading is the cornerstone to all other education. Here are a few suggestions for ways to encourage your children to read and really benefit from the gains of engaging with literature:

Find a book related to their hobbies: it could be the autobiography of their favourite footballer or celebrity, or a how-to guide for something they are interested in. Half the battle is finding a way for a child to engage with literature without it feeling like a chore, so finding something they are interested in can be a great way to open the door. Ask them about the book and let them share their enthusiasm for the subject with you.

Find a genre which engages them: be guided by the types of films they like or games they enjoy and try to match the theme. A sci-fi or fantasy novel might appeal to their enjoyment of other-world action; alternatively a teen-romance or adventure novel might appeal to others. Once you have found one book they have enjoyed, it will be easier to choose another.

Reward them for their progress: if they have been set a particularly challenging book at school or have a book on the shelf they simply will not read, set them challenges with rewards. Perhaps treat them to an ice-cream for reaching 200 pages.

Branch out from novels: if your child finds the idea of a novel too intimidating, try engaging them with a short story or a magazine with in-depth feature articles. Reading of any nature will help develop their vocabulary and understanding of sentence structure.

Lead by example: you will find it difficult to encourage your child to do something they don't see you do yourself. Telling them about the wonders of a book will only go so far. If they see you engaging with literature or absorbed in a newspaper, they are more likely to want to see what all the fuss is about.

Ask them to read to you: ask them to read the headlines from the newspaper to you as you make breakfast or dinner, or a film review of something you are thinking of seeing together. This can be a great way to develop and expand their vocabulary as they can ask you how to pronounce a word and what it means.

Ask them to read to their younger siblings: if they do not feel confident enough to read to you, ask them to read to a younger sibling. The reading material may be less challenging and they will benefit from the enjoyment their sibling will experience from the quality time together.

Let them pick their own books: take your child to the local library or bookshop and ask them what they would like to read. if a book sparks their interest, let them read it, or offer to read it to them. The Kumon Recommended Reading List is also packed with books they may like to explore.