Early reading link to later intelligence

Children with strong reading skills are more likely to have higher intelligence levels as young adults, according to a study.

Tests carried out on identical twins suggest that if children have better than average reading skills from age seven, this may positively affect their intellectual abilities in late adolescence.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and King’s College London tested nearly 2000 pairs of identical twins. They examined the results of reading and intelligence tests taken by the twins when they were aged seven, nine, 10, 12 and 16.

Differences in reading ability

The scientists used a statistical model to test whether early differences in reading ability between pairs of twins were linked to later differences in their intelligence.

Because twins share all of their genes and grow up in the same home, researchers were able to pinpoint any differences attributable to experiences the twins did not share. These might include a particularly effective teacher, or a group of friends that encouraged reading.

Researchers found that early differences in reading were linked to later differences in a range of skills, including verbal intelligence and reasoning. This suggests that tackling problems with reading at an early age could have a range of benefits at a later stage.

Implications for reading instruction

The twins tested were part of the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) an ongoing study led by Professor Robert Plomin at King’s College London.

Since reading is an ability that can be improved, our findings have implications for reading instruction. 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 a person’s lifetime.”

Dr Stuart RitchieSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

The study is published in Child Development journal. It was funded by the Medical Research Council, the Eunice Kennedy National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the European Research Council.