Articles about reading

Reading for pleasure early in childhood linked to better cognitive performance and mental wellbeing in adolescence

Jul 2023

In a study published in Psychological Medicine in June 2023, researchers from the UK and China have found that children who read for pleasure from a young age had greater performance in cognitive tests and have better mental health as they get older.

The study in the US, Early-initiated childhood reading for pleasure: associations with better cognitive performance, mental well-being and brain structure in young adolescence revealed that 12 hours a week is the best amount of time for a child to spend reading, as childhood and adolescence are a key time for brain development while the child is growing.

Of the 10,243 participants, 48% said that they had minimal experience reading for pleasure or did not do so until later in their childhood, whereas the other 52% all had between three and ten years’ experience of reading for pleasure.

Using clinical interviews, cognitive tests, brain scans and mental and behavioural assessments, the researchers found that there was a strong link between reading for pleasure at an early age and adolescent performance in cognitive tests that measured verbal learning, memory and speech development.

The researchers also found a link to better mental well-being, with these participants also showing fewer signs of stress and depression, as well have having longer attention spans and less behavioural problems.
We found significant evidence that reading is linked to important developmental factors in children, improving their cognition, mental health, and brain structure, which are cornerstones for future learning and well-being.
Barbara Sahakian, Professor at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge
Looking at the brain scans of the adolescents who took part in the study revealed that those who had been reading for pleasure from an early age actually had moderately larger total brain areas. Particularly developed were the regions that were important for cognitive functions and areas that have been shown to relate to mental health.

With this research making the benefits of reading for pleasure from young age clear, the Kumon Recommended Reading List has a wide selection of books suitable for all ages to help your child get started. You can also support your child’s English skills by enrolling them in the Kumon English Programme, where they will complete work at the ‘just-right’ level for them, learning confidence through independent study. Contact your local Kumon centre to learn more.

The full study is available to read on the Psychological Medicine website.