Does enjoyment lead to better reading or is it the other way around?

While we often talk about important research dealing with both learning AND training, we came across this study dealing with the relation between reading skill and reading enjoyment and thought it was too interesting to not share it.

While we know that there’s a strong correlation between reading pleasure and reading skills, the question was always: What causes what? Does the fact that you’re a good reader cause you to experience more reading pleasure or does the fact that you enjoy reading have you read more and become a better reader, OR is the relationship reciprocal. This is like the conundrum that we wrote about earlier between motivation and success in learning. This turned out not to be causal from motivation, nor was it reciprocal, but rather that success led to learning success. What the researchers in a study entitled Literacy skills seem to fuel literacy enjoyment, rather than vice versa. They write “Direction-of-causation modelling showed that skills impacted enjoyment. The influence in the other direction was zero.”

Research highlights

  • It’s known that how much children enjoy reading and writing and how good they are at it correlates ~.30, but causality remains unknown.
  • We tested direction of causation in 3,690 twins aged 12.
  • Literacy skills impacted literacy enjoyment, but not the other way around.
  • Genetics influence children’s literacy skills, and subsequently influence how much they like and choose to read and write, indicating genetic niche-picking.

Children who like to read and write tend to be better at it. This association is typically interpreted as enjoyment impacting engagement in literacy activities, which boosts literacy skills. We fitted direction-of-causation models to partial data of 3,690 Finnish twins aged 12. Literacy skills were rated by the twins’ teachers and literacy enjoyment by the twins themselves. A bivariate twin model showed substantial genetic influences on literacy skills (70%) and literacy enjoyment (35%). In both skills and enjoyment, shared-environmental influences explained about 20% in each. Direction-of-causation modelling showed that skills impacted enjoyment. The influence in the other direction was zero. The genetic influences on skills influenced enjoyment, via the skills–> enjoyment path. This indicates active gene-environment correlation: children with an aptitude for good literacy skills are more likely to seek out literacy activities. To a lesser extent, it was also the shared-environmental influences on children’s skills that propagated to influence children’s literacy enjoyment. Environmental influences that foster children’s literacy skills (e.g., families and schools), also foster children’s love for reading and writing. These findings underline the importance of nurturing children’s literacy skills.


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