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Stronger early reading skills predict higher intelligence later

Date:
July 24, 2014
Source:
Society for Research in Child Development
Summary:
A study of 1,890 identical twins has found that strong early reading skill might positively affect later intelligence. The twins, who are part of an ongoing longitudinal study in the United Kingdom, share all their genes as well as a home environment. Differences shown in intellectual ability came from experiences they didn't share. The twin with stronger early reading skills was found to have higher overall intellectual ability by age 7.

A new study of identical twins has found that early reading skill might positively affect later intellectual abilities. The study, in the journal Child Development, was conducted by researchers at the University of Edinburgh and King's College London.

"Since reading is an ability that can be improved, our findings have implications for reading instruction," according to Stuart J. Ritchie, research fellow in psychology at the University of Edinburgh, 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."

Researchers looked at 1,890 identical twins who were part of the Twins Early Development Study, an ongoing longitudinal study in the United Kingdom whose participants were representative of the population as a whole. They examined scores from tests of reading and intelligence taken when the twins were 7, 9, 10, 12, and 16. Using a statistical model, they tested whether differences in reading ability between each pair of twins were linked to later differences in intelligence, taking into account earlier differences in intelligence. Because each pair of identical twins shared all their genes as well as a home environment, any differences between them had to be because of experiences that the twins didn't share, such as a particularly effective teacher or a group of friends that encouraged reading.

The researchers found that earlier differences in reading between the twins were linked to later differences in intelligence. Reading was associated not only with measures of verbal intelligence (such as vocabulary tests) but with measures of nonverbal intelligence as well (such as reasoning tests). The differences in reading that were linked to differences in later intelligence were present by age 7, which may indicate that even early reading skills affect intellectual development.

"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."

Besides having implications for educational intervention, the study may address the question of why individual children from one family can score differently on intelligence tests, despite sharing genes, socioeconomic status, and the educational level and personality of parents with their siblings.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Research in Child Development. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. 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

Cite This Page:

Society for Research in Child Development. "Stronger early reading skills predict higher intelligence later." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140724094209.htm>.
Society for Research in Child Development. (2014, July 24). Stronger early reading skills predict higher intelligence later. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140724094209.htm
Society for Research in Child Development. "Stronger early reading skills predict higher intelligence later." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140724094209.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

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