Children who love to read for fun tend to become smarter and happier teenagers. A study conducted jointly by the University of Cambridge, the University of Warwick, and Fudan University in China, revealed that reading for 12 hours a week is optimal for the development of young brains. The researchers found strong links between the recreational reading of kids from 2 to 9 years old and their performances in memory and speech development, verbal learning, and academic tests.

The second good news is that, according to reports from their parents and teachers, these kids, who later grew into teenagers, enjoyed better mental health, showed lower levels of stress and depression, had higher attention spans, and had fewer behavioral issues such as aggression and disrespect for rules. They also tended to sleep more and spend less time in front of screens.

Moreover, 52 percent of the 10,000 teenagers involved in the study spent between 3 to 10 years reading for enjoyment. The not-so-good news is that the other 48 percent had little exposure to reading for fun or only started doing it later in their childhood. Indeed, participants who began reading for pleasure earlier had a "moderately larger" overall brain than their peers who did not.

It's almost amusing and paradoxical, but the scientists also warned about the risk of cognitive decline for kids who may spend excessive time reading to the detriment of other mentally beneficial activities such as sports and social interactions. In any case, while listening and speaking languages progress effortlessly among young kids, reading is a skill that takes time to master, from the earliest years throughout childhood and on to adolescence.

Picture: A smiling beaver reading a book (ChildUp & DALL-E - 2023)