Story at a Glance.
We all know reading is important. But for the first time we’ve got some concrete evidence that learning to read early increases the level of intelligence in kids.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the Kings College London, conducted a study of identical twins1. They found that children who read earlier had a high IQ later in their development. What’s important to keep in mind about identical twins is that the twins share not only the same genes but are raised in the same household. This means the only difference between their scores on intelligence tests can come from an external stimuli, an experience if you will, not shared by both of them.
In the study, the twin that was introduced to reading early was found to have a higher intelligence than the one that wasn’t. If that’s not enough to motivate you to turn off the kiddie television shows and pop them in front of a book, there’s no telling what is!
“Since reading is an ability that can be improved, our findings have implications for reading instruction,” says Stuart Ritchie, who led the study. “Early remediation of reading problems might aid not only the growth of literacy, but also more general cognitive abilities that are of critical importance across the lifespan.”
The children’s intelligence was measured not only with verbal intelligence testing but what psychologists refer to as nonverbal intelligence testing, that is the ability to reason. The differences in reading ability between the twins showed a clear link to differences in intelligence later on. These differences where noticeable by the age of seven.
“If, as our results imply, reading causally influences intelligence, the implications for educators are clear,” suggests Ritchie. “Children who don’t receive enough assistance in learning to read may also be missing out on the important, intelligence-boosting properties of literacy.”
While it’s noteworthy that our educational system or home time approach to reading should be considered important, it also raises the interesting observation that perhaps this is why children from the same family score differently on IQ test.
It’s not just about your genes or if you had the same family rules to abide by, or even if you attended the same academic institution, but rather perhaps something far more subtle. Learning the art of reading.
 Ritchie, SJ, Bates, TC and Plomin, R. Does Learning to Read Improve Intelligence? A Longitudinal Multivariate Analysis in Identical Twins From Age 7 to 16. Child Development, 2014