A love of reading linked to getting a good job
Researchers at Nuffield College, Oxford University, claim the findings prove a clear link between reading for pleasure and gaining a good job.
In contrast, lead researcher Mark Taylor said that activities such as sports, playing a musical instrument and an interest in computer games make no measurable difference to the chances of pupils being successful in the work arena.
The study analysed the responses of 17,200 people born in 1970 who gave details of their extra-curricular activities at age 16, and their jobs at age 33.
The findings show that the 16-year-olds who read a book at least once a month were "significantly" more likely to be in a professional or managerial position at the age of 33 than those who did not read. It is thought reading has a major role to play in developing independent learners.
The research also looked at after-school activities including sports, socialising, going to the cinema, concerts or museums, cooking and sewing, but found that none of these had an impact on careers. After school learning in the form of books however, appears to swing the balance.
Mr Taylor, who is presenting the findings at the British Sociological Association's annual conference in London, said: "According to our results, there is something special about reading for pleasure - the positive associations of reading for pleasure aren't replicated in any other extra-curricular activity, regardless of our expectations."
Reading could be beneficial because it improves a youngster's intellect, Mr Taylor suggested, or because employers feel happier taking on someone with a similar educational background.
Students who are destined for good careers could tend to read more anyway, he added.