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Reading for pleasure and progress in vocabulary and mathematics

Sullivan, A; Brown, M; (2015) Reading for pleasure and progress in vocabulary and mathematics. British Educational Research Journal , 41 (6) pp. 971-991. 10.1002/berj.3180. Green open access

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Abstract

This paper examines inequalities in attainment in vocabulary and mathematics at age 16 for a nationally representative cohort of people born in Britain in 1970 (the 1970 British Cohort Study). Our analytical sample is n=3, 583 cohort members who completed vocabulary and mathematics tests at age 16. We explore whether inequalities due to childhood social background are similar across the linguistic and mathematical domains, or whether they differ, and to what extent these inequalities are driven by families’ social class position, parents’ education and home reading resources. We examine the role of children’s own reading for pleasure controlling for all these background factors. As reading can be seen as an indicator of ‘cultural capital’, we also test the influence of an alternative indicator of cultural capital, playing a musical instrument. Our longitudinal analysis addresses the question of the extent to which differences in attainment are determined by age 10; and which factors are linked to a growth in differentials during adolescence. We show that childhood reading is linked to substantial cognitive progress between the ages of 10 and 16, whereas playing an instrument is not. Reading is most strongly linked to progress in vocabulary, with a weaker, but still substantial link to progress in maths. Strikingly, reading for pleasure is more strongly linked than parental education to cognitive progress in adolescence.

Type: Article
Title: Reading for pleasure and progress in vocabulary and mathematics
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1002/berj.3180
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1002/berj.3180
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Reading; longitudinal; BCS70; vocabulary; mathematics
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10021113
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