Read what you want into learning research

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by Tim Carroll, Vandyke Upper School headteacher and chairman of the Leighton Buzzard Headteachers’ Group

Idon’t read enough but when I do I remember the huge enjoyment and satisfaction to be derived from a simple pleasure.

Currently I am almost through a series of crime novels by Philip Kerr whose chief character is German police detective Bernie Gunther. This is history and fiction entwined into page-turning thrillers as Communists and Nazis clash on the streets of 1930s Berlin while the wealthy elite crowd the elegant hotel lobbies and fashionable restaurants.

New research has reiterated the importance of reading and the impact of early reading on later learning.

While this is of course no surprise, it provides further powerful evidence that reading is vital for young learners.

This longitudinal study of 10,000 people has tracked early reading habits to enhanced later learning and increased vocabulary even in middle age.

The study shows that those who regularly read for pleasure aged 10 learn better through school and even score significantly higher on vocabulary tests 30 years later compared to those who had not read regularly.

This was true even after the effect of family background is taken out.

The study shows that reading high quality fiction is more powerful than reading non-fiction and has something quite intriguing to say about newspaper reading habits.

It seems that regularly reading a broadsheet newspaper had a positive impact on progress made in learning generally, including interestingly in mathematics, but those who read tabloid newspapers actually made slightly less progress than those who did not read any type of newspaper.

While I might admit to being inwardly pleased by this revelation, it does suggest that wider social factors are at play here than simply the nature of the material we read.

If we needed any reminder of the importance of reading high quality fiction then here we have it.

The message for today is a sidsample one: enjoy reading your copy of the LBO to be well informed and entertained and then go pick up a book, preferably “high brow” fiction or even a classic.