Reading Makes You Smart

My childhood favorites

Whenever I see a kid reading a book — or anything for that matter — the reader in me bubbles up, and a sales pitch starts welling up inside, and then it just comes out, unbidden, like a burp. Here’s pretty much how it goes.

Me: Reading makes you smart, you know!


Me: If you read a lot, you’ll get really big brains.

Child: (smiles)

Me: Make sure you learn to read really, really well. You’ll get all As in school. And then you’ll get into a good college, (getting crazy look in my eye) and then you can do whatever you want with your life. You can be anything you want to be.


Me: It’s true. Trust me.

A while back, I wondered whether or not I was in fact telling kids the truth. I mean, sure, it’s a well-known fact that the more literate you are the better you do in school. But I couldn’t quote statistics or anything like that.

So I did a little research. You might want to take your blood pressure meds before you read what I found.


Percentage of families who read regularly to their kindergarteners

3 to 4 times more

Likelihood that children will drop out of school early if they don’t have some basic literary skills before entering the classroom


Percentage of kids who will end up either in jail or on welfare if they can’t read proficiently by 4th grade


Percentage of young people who interface with juvenile court who are functionally illiterate

34 million

Number of U.S. adults who function at below average literacy levels (unable to fill out a job application or read a prescription label, for example)

$20 billion

Cost per year of illiteracy on taxpayers and businesses. For example, U.S. businesses spend approximately $300 million per year in remedial literacy training for employees


Average annual salary of someone without a high school diploma

Does reading make you smart? I think so, and even if these stats don’t directly correlate to intelligence levels, they do correlate to what we all consider “success” in life. So, I’m going to continue making a conscious effort to praise kids up and down when I see them reading. You try it. Make a big fuss over kids when you see them crack open a book. Show them how much you respect their decision to spend their time reading. Who knows the impact your well-timed compliment can have on a kid’s sense of self and outlook on life.


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