Research that proves the incredible benefits of reading to your child

Following The Big Issue's #WhyBooksMatter campaign, researcher Yvonne Kelly got in touch with us to share brand new research which proves the enormous benefits of reading to a child

Brand new research by Professor Yvonne Kelly, based at UCL, provides evidence for something that we knew to be true but have not been able to quantify or prove before – the enormous benefits of reading to a child. This is the first research undertaken in Britain to isolate the potential benefits to a child’s mental and emotional development of being read to on a regular basis.

Using the Millennium Cohort Study, which has followed the lives of 20,000 children born between 2000 and 2002, Kelly’s findings clearly demonstrate that regular reading helps with children’s behaviour and enables them to do better at school.

Kelly, and her colleague Christine Garrington, who together edit got in touch with us after following our #WhyBooksMatter campaign, which is fighting to ensure everyone has access to books. Here, Kelly shares her findings.

Creating a fairer, more equal society starts with reading to our young children every day. This is why…

Snap shot of the early years:

  • At ages three and five, children who are read to just once a week are four times more likely to have behaviour problems than children who are read to daily.
  • At the ages of three and five, children who are read to daily do better in all tests that predict how well they will get on at school – including how well they talk, knowing their numbers, shapes and colours.
  • Changing reading habits/routines at ages three and five from less than daily to daily, or from less than weekly to weekly, is linked to improvements in behaviour.

Children read to most frequently are much more likely to thrive and do well in all aspects of their lives

Taking a longer view – over the first decade of life:

Our research shows that children follow three distinct paths or trajectories in their talking/speaking and reading skills from when they are born through to when they go to secondary school at age 11. Those children read to most frequently are much more likely to be on the top path where they thrive and do well in all aspects of their lives, and those read to least frequently are much more likely to be on the lower path where their outcomes are far less good.

What the research tells us:

  • Reading to all children daily could result in a 20 per cent fall in the numbers of children with behavioural problems.
  • Reading to your child every day instead of once a week can make a big difference to the start they get in life/set them on the best possible path to a healthy and happy life.
  • At age three just over half of children in the UK are read to daily – this sets them on a good path. We need to create the right conditions for the other half of our children to be read to daily.
  • Reading to a child is a simple but powerful boost to their development.
  • It does not matter how rich or poor you are, reading to your child every day will help them do better/give them a stronger start.
  • Even in a household where the parents have poor mental health, daily reading can have positive effects.
  • It’s not too late to make a difference. Small changes to how often we read to our young children could help transform their lives for the better.