The relation between time spent reading and reading comprehension throughout the life course

Faculty/Professorship: Empirical Educational Research 
Author(s): Locher, Franziska; Pfost, Maximilian  
Title of the Journal: Journal of Research in Reading
ISSN: 1467-9817, 0141-0423
Publisher Information: Oxford [u.a.] : Wiley-Blackwell
Year of publication: 2019
Volume: 43
Issue: 1
Pages: 57-77
Language(s): English
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9817.12289
Background: In the present paper, we investigated the association between time spent reading and reading comprehension throughout the lifespan. According to the Matthew effect (or rich-get-richer and poor-get-poorer) model, interindividual differences in reading-related skills between poor and average readers become wider as individuals grow older. Furthermore, the model states that these differences may be caused by different reading habits (i.e., the amount of time spent reading). Less competent readers tend to read less and therefore show less improvement in their reading skills. Competent readers tend to read more and therefore show greater improvement in their reading skills. Therefore, we propose that the correlation between time spent reading and reading comprehension should increase as people grow older.
Method: To test this hypothesis, we analysed data from the German National Educational Panel Study (NEPS). We used data from four cohorts (N = 28,795) with an age range from preadolescence (Grade 5) to later adulthood (>55 years).
Results: Our results showed a medium-sized correlation between leisure-time reading and reading comprehension for students attending secondary school (β ~ 0.20). Contrary to our expectations, the correlations decreased with age and reached a stable low level (β ~ 0.07) in adulthood. However, for adults, occupation-related reading predicted reading comprehension (β = 0.13–0.23).
Conclusion: According to our results, reading should be viewed as a process that changes throughout the lifespan. Furthermore, results and implications from previous studies on the relation between time spent reading and reading skills from research conducted on school students might not be generalisable to adults. With respect to the results of the present study, we might restrict the validity of the Matthew effect in reading to school students and young adolescents.
Keywords: time spent reading, life course, reading comprehension, occupation-related reading, cohort comparison
Type: Article
Release Date: 17. June 2022
Project: Quer- und längsschnittliche Analysen zur Entwicklung des Leseverhaltens, lesebezogener Einstellungen und lesebezogener Kompetenzen