How your childhood reading habits influence your personality traits

Sometimes, I think we do reading a disservice when we promote it to kids.

It’s true that reading is enormously important to people of any age, but especially for children, with their developing brains. 

It’s also true that if you can get a kid to enjoy reading, you have a good chance of making a lifelong reader out of them.

Unfortunately, promoting reading to kids can often backfire, making it seem like something else adults want them to do, along with eating their vegetables.

Still, there’s no denying that the reading habits you develop as a kid can have a huge effect on the personality you have later in life.

I’ll admit it: I was a major bookworm as a kid. The kind that would smuggle a flashlight into bed so that I could read under the covers after my parents told me to go to sleep.

As it turns out, those reading habits have had a profound effect on the person I am today.

Here’s how:

1) Improved language skills

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that reading as a child can have a profound effect on your language skills.

This is just one study of many which demonstrates that kids who learn to read early and well have a leg up when it comes to developing language skills.

Naturally, this is important when kids are first learning to speak, read, and write, and can give them a significant boost in these crucial early learning skills.

What may come as more of a surprise is that the benefits of reading early persist into later life.

A Cambridge University study found that “Children who begin reading for pleasure early in life tend to perform better at cognitive tests and have better mental health when they enter adolescence”.

The thing is, when we are children, our brains are wired for learning. The skills and abilities we pick up as children almost never leave us. 

As anyone who has tried to learn a language as an adult will find, a kid’s ability to learn and memorize new information is almost a superpower.

Language skills that kids who read develop stay with them for a lifetime. And often, kids who read early end up being better with language than those who don’t, even decades later.

2) Higher academic performance

It’s no secret that childhood reading leads to greater academic performance. There are hundreds of studies demonstrating that kids who learn to read early, and those who read often, do better in school.

Partly, that’s because reading and understanding language is one of the main subjects we study in school, especially early on.

But also, reading can actually improve brain development – a subject we’ll address later on in this article.

To put it simply, kids with strong reading habits do better in school. And higher academic performance is something that can set you up for a lifetime of success.

There are lots of jobs that require strong academic performance. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other professions all require advanced education, which requires strong academic performance.

Adults with greater literacy often have better job prospects, higher wages, and better mental health than those who struggled more with reading.

So if you have a good career with high earning potential, you may have the reading habits your parents and teachers developed in you as a kid to thank.

3) Improved cognitive development

It’s probably not that surprising to learn that reading can help you improve your language skills and help you do better at school. But being good at reading is about more than just the reading itself. 

There is significant evidence that learning to read early and developing a strong reading habit can have a powerful effect on the development of a child’s brain.

Check out this article by a team of researchers published in Scientific American.

Studying 10,000 participants from across the nation and covering a range of ethnicities and socioeconomic classes, the researchers found that children who read for pleasure “had larger cortical surface areas in several brain regions that are significantly related to cognition and mental health (including the frontal areas).”

In other words, the act of reading helps kids to develop their brains differently from those who didn’t read.

Childhood is a crucial time for brain development, and in many ways, if you don’t maximize that time of growth, you lose many of the opportunities that come with it.

So, learning to read early doesn’t just make you better at reading or taking exams. It can also fundamentally change the structure of your brain, creating effects that may last a lifetime.

4) Better concentration and focus

signs youre a creative thinker with an endless supply of ideas How your childhood reading habits influence your personality traits

The brain is not a muscle, but in some ways, it behaves like one. Just as you can strengthen your muscles and improve the way they perform by regularly exercising them, you can do the same with your brain.

And reading is one of the best ways to do it.

Reading requires concentrating and focusing, which can often be a challenge for younger kids. But as they read more, they develop their powers of concentration, becoming able to read longer and longer books and staying more and more focused.

As we’ve already discussed, this can have a profound effect on their performance in school.

But it’s also worth noting that people who learn to focus on reading as kids are often better at concentrating as adults.

Several studies have found that reading is the key to scoring higher in intelligence tests. The ability to concentrate and focus that you develop as a child who reads is often carried into adulthood and becomes a powerful tool for success in a world full of constant distractions.

5) Better imagination and creativity

Part of the magic of books is that they can create an entire world out of nothing but some words on the page.

Reading engages the imagination of both children and adults. Unlike more visual media like films, reading requires a more collaborative and creative style of engagement, making the reader almost a cocreator with the author.

As the World Literacy Foundation points out, regular reading enhances our imaginations and makes us more creative. 

That’s a trait that readers carry with them into adulthood, and it makes them able to solve problems in a creative way that many other people wouldn’t think of.

6) Enhanced adult reading habits

There’s no guarantee that encouraging kids to read will build a reading habit that lasts a lifetime.

Certainly, it worked for me. But my siblings, raised the same way I was, don’t read for pleasure like I do.

However, encouraging kids to read is still one of the best ways to make sure they will grow up to become adults who read, too.

As this article in The Atlantic points out, the way parents feel about reading can have a massive effect on how their kids approach it.

One of the most powerful things a parent can do is read themselves. This gives children a positive example to follow and shows that reading is not a chore, but can be a genuine source of pleasure.

When a child learns to enjoy reading for its own sake rather than as something they have to do for school or to impress other people, you are well on your way to creating a reading adult.

And as we’ve already discussed, people who read tend to do better in life by lots of different metrics.

7) Greater empathy

This might be one of the most surprising effects of reading.

However, it seems that people who read it may have heightened powers of empathy.

And that may be especially true of those who read fiction.

Reading a novel requires you to put yourself in the position of people you’ve never met, people who don’t even exist. Reading novels allows you to experience the lives of people from other countries and other parts of the world, or even from worlds completely different to ours.

That opens us up to a broader range of experience than we can possibly have for ourselves, and in doing so, paves the way for greater understanding of the emotions of other people.

When you understand the way other people feel, you treat them better. Practicing empathy is a powerful way to get along better with others, and it can also have profound effects on your personal relationships and even your career progression.

So if you want to develop your understanding of others, the best thing to do might be to open a book.

The power of reading

I have a lot to be grateful for when it comes to the reading habits I developed as a kid. Without them, I wouldn’t be doing the job I currently do, and wouldn’t be the person I am today.

While reading seems simple, it’s one of the most powerful ways to develop a child’s brain, concentration, and empathy. And it has effects that can last your entire life.

Picture of Ryan Frawley

Ryan Frawley

Ryan Frawley is a France-based writer with a passion for psychology, philosophy, science, and anything that attempts to answer life’s biggest questions.

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