There are countless benefits of reading at all ages of life, but recent research suggests children who read for fun in early childhood have improved mental health as adolescents.
Published in Psychological Medicine, the study out of Cambridge University involved more than 10,000 U.S. teens. Just less than half of study participants did not read for pleasure or began reading for pleasure at an older age than the other half of participants, who reported reading for pleasure for 3-10 years.
Participants who reported reading for pleasure for most of their life had overall higher cognitive performance scores, improved speech development and academic achievement, and a lower risk for developing mental health disorders.
“It comes as no surprise that adolescents who had been reading and read to from an early age cognitively outperformed their counterparts,” says Dr. Clare Crosh, a pediatrician at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “But these mental health findings are interesting. We can’t say that reading for pleasure as children is the sole cause of these mental health benefits, but we can certainly consider how reading can inspire creativity, reduce stress and serve as an activity for parents and children to do together, which in turn can have a positive impact on mental health.”
Dr. Crosh explains why it’s important to begin reading with your child beginning in their very early days of life.
“The first three years of a child’s life are the most critical for speech and language development. Additionally, spending that time together strengthens your relationship with your child, helping not only to build their language skills but their social-emotional skills. You’re laying a positive foundation that will last a lifetime,” she says.
This article originally appeared on health enews.