Coyne: Study confirms good readers do well later in life

Some things you just know. They’re common sense.

Some things you just know. They’re common sense.

But when statistics and studies come along that confirm what you know, you want to shine a light on the information.

There was a moment like that for me this week, when Statistics Canada released results focused on the linkages between reading abilities while you’re young and outcomes later in life.

Learning to read, it turns out, is not just a good thing—it is a very good thing. Especially if you learn to do it well while you’re young.

In the fashion of studious, learned researchers, the study at hand is called Life-path Outcomes at Age 25 Associated with Reading Ability at Age 15.

The study drew on a sample of more than 11,000 students that have been followed since 1999.

Without going into details on the how and why, let’s just say that the study showed that the students who had higher reading abilities at age 15 (in 1999) have gone on to enrol, stay and succeed in post-secondary education at a greater rate than those with lower reading levels.

They’ve also gone on to earn more money.

Common sense?


But surprising?

Maybe only because it has been quantified. Slightly more than half (54 per cent) of those students with below average reading proficiency failed to go on to post-secondary education by the time they were 25 years old. About 61 per cent of those with average reading skills completed post-secondary while 77 per cent of those with above average reading skills completed post-secondary.

On the “who is earning what?” scale, development of above-average reading skills means earning more money later.

Those with below average reading skills at 15 earned an average of $39,902 annually at age 25. Those with average reading skills earned about $42,580 and those with above-average reading skills brought in about $44,155.

The authors note “this difference is particularly noteworthy given that those below Level 3 (the average range) can be presumed to have been working for several years given their lower levels of educational attainment. These income data suggest, then, that a longer stay in the labour force does not compensate for the financial benefits that accrue to higher levels of educational attainment.”

The messages from the study are clear, from my perspective.

For parents, the message is this: If you want to help your child get a leg up in her or his later development, focus more on reading skills early.  Encourage reading.

For policy makers, the message is: Find ways to encourage enhanced development of reading skills early in life. Invest in programs and resources that will move that agenda forward. More students going on to post-secondary education and more people earning more money equates to more income taxes being paid and fewer demands on the social safety net.

Some people would call that return on investment.

Sounds like common sense from where I stand.

Allan Coyle is in media relations with Okanagan College.


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