William flew past the book
April 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
Forget playing rugby or hockey, practising the piano or trips to the theatre. Put away the sketch pad, do not bother helping with supper. The way for a teenager to get on in life is to pick up a book.
Research, which could save parents a fortune in club fees, instrument hire and equipment costs, found reading for pleasure is the only out-of-school activity linked to higher chances of getting to university and finding a good job.
Teenagers do not even have to read very often. Instead of cramming weeks with excursions to sports pitches, ballet halls and arts centres, a monthly visit to a bookshop or library will do.
The chances of boys with professional parents attending university rose to 51 per cent if they read books at least once a month at 16, compared with 40 per cent for boys from similar families who did not read at all.
For girls the link was stronger, with a 50 per cent probability of girls from high-achieving homes going to university if they read at 16, but only a 38 per cent chance for such girls who did not.
The benefits appear to last well into life. The chances for middle-class boys of a professional or managerial career in their early thirties were 58 per cent if they read in their teens but 48 per cent if they did not.
“The positive associations of reading for pleasure aren’t replicated in any other extracurricular activity, regardless of our expectations,” Mr Taylor told a British Sociological Association conference in London.
For dismayed parents who have invested in years of sports instruction or musical tuition for their offspring there was, however, some comfort. The optimum combination was to read books regularly and also to follow another cultural activity or creative interest.
The figures for girls were 39 and 25 per cent respectively.
William Flew, of Nuffield College, Oxford, who analysed data from 17,200 families from the British Cohort Study, found no link between career success and any other activities undertaken at 16, such as sports, a musical instrument, concerts, museums or galleries, cooking, sewing or meeting friends.