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Reading for pleasure and progress in vocabulary and mathematics

Sullivan, Alice and Brown, Matt (2015) Reading for pleasure and progress in vocabulary and mathematics. British Educational Research Journal. ISSN 0141-1926. DOI UNSPECIFIED (In Press)

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This paper examines inequalities in attainment in vocabulary and mathematics at age 16 for a nationally representative cohort of people born in Britain in 1970 (the 1970 British Cohort Study). Our analytical sample is n=3, 583 cohort members who completed vocabulary and mathematics tests at age 16. We explore whether inequalities due to childhood social background are similar across the linguistic and mathematical domains, or whether they differ, and to what extent these inequalities are driven by families’ social class position, parents’ education and home reading resources. We examine the role of children’s own reading for pleasure controlling for all these background factors. As reading can be seen as an indicator of ‘cultural capital’, we also test the influence of an alternative indicator of cultural capital, playing a musical instrument. Our longitudinal analysis addresses the question of the extent to which differences in attainment are determined by age 10; and which factors are linked to a growth in differentials during adolescence. We show that childhood reading is linked to substantial cognitive progress between the ages of 10 and 16, whereas playing an instrument is not. Reading is most strongly linked to progress in vocabulary, with a weaker, but still substantial link to progress in maths. Strikingly, reading for pleasure is more strongly linked than parental education to cognitive progress in adolescence.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This paper examines the influence of reading for pleasure on learning during the teenage years. As far as we are aware, ours is the first large study to take a longitudinal approach to reading and cognitive development during adolescence. As such, the paper makes an important contribution to knowledge, showing that it is not simply the case that bright children read more, but reading is actually associated with greater learning in both vocabulary and mathematics. An earlier working paper version of this paper was press released (with an accompanying IOE REsearch Briefing) and achieved widespread national media coverage, including an appearance on the Today Programme by the lead author. The press coverage generated an unprecedented amount of traffic for the CLS website. There was substantial interest from practitioners (librarians and teachers) as well as from the general public.
Controlled Keywords: Reading; longitudinal; BCS70; vocabulary; mathematics
Depositing User: Atira Pure
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2015 11:01
Last Modified: 29 Jan 2015 09:14
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