Skip to content

Childhood Bookworms Have Bigger And Better Brains, Says Cambridge Study

Reading for pleasure between two and nine years old leads to improved cognition, mental health, and brain structure.
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Childhood bookworms who love to read become happier and smarter teenagers, according to a new study.The University of Cambridge researchers found reading for 12 hours a week was optimal for youngsters to develop bigger and better brains.

Performing well in memory and speech, verbal learning, and general academic tests was strongly linked with reading for pleasure between two and nine years old.

The kids also tended to sleep longer and spend less time staring at screens.

Despite the benefits, almost half of the 10,000 teens studied had little experience of reading for pleasure or didn’t pick up a book for fun until later childhood.

The other half, 52 percent, spent between three and ten years turning pages for enjoyment according to the research developed by the University of Warwick and Fudan University, China, as well as Cambridge.

A key discovery was that participants who read for pleasure at an early age had “moderately larger” total brain area and volumes, including in regions critical for cognitive function.

The prime amount of reading time was 12 hours a week, beyond that there were apparent extra benefits.

Parents read books to their children during a program with Coates Family Academy at Lutie Lewis Coates Elementary School in Herndon, Virginia, Thursday, May 11, 2023.We encourage parents to do their best to awaken the joy of reading in their children at an early age. Done right, this will not only give them pleasure and enjoyment but will also help their development and encourage long-term reading habits, which may also prove beneficial into adult life.PHOTO BY SALWAN GEORGES/GETTY IMAGES 

Researchers added that there could actually be a cognitive decline because it suggests they are spending more time sedentary than they are engaged in other mentally-enriching activities like sports and social activities.

“But on top of this, we found significant evidence that it’s linked to important developmental factors in children, improving their cognition, mental health, and brain structure, which are cornerstones for future learning and well-being.”

Unlike listening and speaking a language – skills that are developed rapidly and easily among youngsters – the ability to read is taught and acquired over time.

Our brains develop during childhood and adolescence, meaning the years are crucial for establishing behavior patterns that support our cognitive development.However, until this 10,243-person study, the impact of early years’ reading has remained unclear.

The study was published in Psychological Medicine and used data from the Adolescent Brian and Cognitive Development (ABCD) cohort in the U.S.



Produced in association with SWNS Talker

“What’s the latest with Florida Man?”

Get news, handpicked just for you, in your box.

Check out our free email newsletters

Recommended from our partners