There are two facts that hold true in virtually every society where males and females have equal access to books and education.
- Females read more than males.
- Females do better in school than males.
While males tend to score better in math, there’s a tie for the sciences, and thereafter girls tend to be on the upward curve.
Is the fact that girls read more, the reason they tend to outperform boys? Or is it mere coincidence? And if boys pick up the slack with reading, will they finally catch up with their female counterparts?
How Reading Affects the Gender Gap in Education
According to the Economist, reading is the primary reason girls outperform boys in school. In an article entitled, Why girls do better at school than boys, they explain:
Reading proficiency is the basis upon which all other learning is built. When boys don’t do well at reading, their performance in other school subjects suffers too.
…Boys, it appears, spend more of their free time in the virtual world; they are 17% more likely to play collaborative online games than girls every day. They also use the internet more.
Of course, there are other factors that affect the gender inequalities in school performance, including juvenile macho behavior, resulting in a “too cool for school” mindset.
In light of these additional reasons for unequal performance, when gender is removed from the equation, does reading still hold a strong argument for excellent academic performance?
The Effect of Reading on Intelligence
While attending college in Jamaica, the common phrase, constantly reiterated by our teachers, is that we were expected to “read for our degrees.”
To ensure we followed through with this, we were bombarded with requirements to read entire textbooks for up to 6 courses in a semester. If that didn’t get the point across to us, then nothing else would.
But let’s be honest. What teachers believe and what actually happens doesn’t always correlate. Is this one of those instances? Do students really read for their educational qualifications? Or is this an over-exaggeration pushed by passionate professors?
According to scientists at Edinburgh and King’s College, the teachers were exactly right. After tracking 1,890 pairs of identical twins for a decade, with varying reading levels, the team found:
…those who are better at reading tend to be smarter later in their development. Even at the age of seven you can already see the effect.
It is perhaps not a shock to learn that better readers develop higher levels of verbal reasoning.
But what is perhaps more surprising is that children who have a better ability to read do better in non-verbal tests.
The scientists also found that children with greater reading abilities tended to have a wider imagination, and were better at retaining specific facts. They believe this “helps them think abstractly and rationally in fields of mathematics, science, and logic.”
But What About Adulthood?
While these studies have great implications, assuming childhood literacy and intelligence assures college academic excellence can be a bit of a stretch. We all knew that student — or several — who did great in their earlier years, but then peaked early, and never seemed to progress much further in life.
Well, according to School Media Library Research, the benefits of reading hold right into adulthood, and yes, college life. In a published study discussing the effects of voluntary reading outside of school, the researchers mentioned that college students who fell behind in school, correlated with students who read less and less after middle school.
The study even went on to explain why techies were often much more well-read, and more intelligent, than their peers. The study states:
…young people’s use of computers shifts away from games and toward accessing information as they get older. Students who use computers watch TV less frequently than those who do not use computers. People in households with computers spend just as much money on reading material as those without computers.
What Does This Mean for You?
It turns out that our Jamaican lecturers were correct: it’s important to read for that degree, after all. And the more of it you do, the smarter you become, the better you are at reasoning and stretching your imagination, and the better you are at testing.
All of that translates into not just better academic grades, but better work performance later on. In short, it makes you a much better human being, even with school set aside.
As the School of Library Media Research shares, “the premise that literacy is associated with school achievement, participation in a democracy, and self-fulfillment is widely held.”
With so many great benefits, why wouldn’t you turn the TV off, power down the video games, silence the cellphone, and do some reading? You have so much to gain, and nothing to lose in the process!
About the Author
Alexis Chateau is the Founder of College Mate and Managing Director at Alexis Chateau PR. She is an activist, writer, and explorer. Follow her stories of trial and triumph at www.alexischateau.com.