Two of the best gifts you can give any child are a love of reading and access to books. Children who discover the joys of delving into great reads need never be bored or lonely, as books can keep them company and even whisk them away to other worlds.
But reading can be much more than pleasant entertainment. Learn about some of the remarkable ways reading can benefit children both now and in the years ahead.
1. Readers Have Broader Vocabularies
One of the best ways for anyone to expand their vocabulary is to read as frequently as possible. Not only does reading expose children to new words, but it also presents them in context. This helps them grasp the meaning of those words, learning how and when to use them. Studies show that children who read often have a significantly larger vocabulary than those who do not.
2. Reading Can Boost Math Scores
It makes sense that the ability to grasp and recall what they read could help kids improve their academics across the board, and that includes their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills. It turns out that students who are proficient in reading comprehension really do score better on math tests. In one study, high school students who took a course in reading comprehension improved their math scores over the course of a year from 5% to 14%. Not bad!
3. Reading Can Reduce Stress
Childhood stress can have long-term health effects, increasing the risk for depression, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. There are a lot of ways to manage stress, and reading is one of them. In fact, one study found that reading for 30 minutes a day could reduce stress by as much as 68%.
4. Readers Are More Likely to Graduate
A recent study shows that the average reading score for high-school dropouts is 55 points lower than it is for high school graduates. The same study found that people who read for enjoyment are much more likely to engage in sports or outdoor activities and enjoy the fine arts, and they’re twice as likely as non-readers to give to charity and do volunteer work.
5. Reading Improves Self-Confidence
They say writers write what they know. As author Susan Cain pointed out in Psychology Today, writers of children’s books tend to be introverts, and they often create main characters who are introverted as well.
“Books, especially children’s books, are one of the few media to portray introverts as intellectually and emotionally aflame, as opposed to aloof, flawed, or dull,” Cain wrote. “This is especially important for children, who seem to read only for plot but are actually forming their view of the world — and of their places in it.”
When shy or quiet children relate to these protagonists, who succeed despite or even because of their introverted personalities, it could improve their own self-esteem, Cain said.
6. Fiction Readers Are More Empathetic
Reading fiction allows children to see the world from the perspective of protagonists and other characters. Taking these walks in someone else’s shoes can help develop a child’s sense of empathy. This is beneficial in relationships of all kinds throughout a child’s life.
7. Good Readers Earn More
Adults who are proficient readers tend to have jobs that are more financially rewarding than their less-skilled counterparts. A study by the National Endowment for the Arts found that more than 60% of proficient readers are employed in management, business, financial, professional and related sectors, while just 18% of basic readers have similar jobs. In addition, proficient readers are more than twice as likely to earn $850 per week or more than basic or below-basic readers are.
8. The Most Successful Leaders Read Regularly
Think of the most wealthy and successful person you can. Chances are good that this person is an avid reader. Warren Buffet recommends reading 500 pages per day. Oprah has her own book club. Elon Musk taught himself how to build rockets by reading. Bill Gates reads 50 books every year.
At What Age Should Kids Be Proficient Readers?
From pre-kindergarten through second grade, kids are learning how to read. By the end of third grade, children should be proficient readers. While it is never too late to become an above-average reader, experts view third-grade reading proficiency as an important indicator for success.
This video from the Scripps Howard Foundation explains why:
How You Can Help Kids Become Readers
There are numerous ways to help the children in your life to learn how to read well and to embrace a lifelong love of reading.
- Start by reading to your kids right away. Even babies benefit from having books read to them.
- Encourage them to read all year long, even over summer break.
- Let your kids see you reading. It doesn’t matter whether it’s nonfiction or a romance novel. Knowing that you value the skill makes it more meaningful to your children.
- Make books and other reading materials easily accessible and take frequent trips to the library.
Not all children have an ample supply of books at home. However, these children deserve the advantages that reading proficiency has to offer.
The Scripps Howard Foundation has launched a literacy campaign called “If You Give a Child a Book.” The foundation raised money and, in a partnership with Scholastic Book Fairs, purchases and provides books to children in need through local nonprofit organizations.
You can help give a child the gift of the love of reading by donating to the “If You Give a Child a Book” campaign.