Reading fiction books for fun improves language skills, study finds

Montreal, Quebec – Looking for a good read to start 2022? A recent study reveals that choosing something from the fiction section can also help improve your verbal skills while entertaining you at the same time. Researchers from Concordia University in Canada claim that reading for pleasure, especially when it comes to fiction, improves a reader’s scores on language tests.

Fiction books – from “The Hunger Games” to “Harry Potter” – often don’t receive the same praise for their educational benefits as their non-fiction counterparts. However, the team found that reading for pleasure resulted in higher test scores than those who read purely for “function” – to gain specific knowledge from a non-fiction book.

“It’s always very positive and encouraging to give people permission to immerse themselves in the series they love. I liken it to the research that says chocolate is good for you: the guilty pleasure of reading fiction is associated with positive cognitive benefits and verbal outcomes,” says Sandra Martin-Chang, a professor of education in the Faculty of Arts and Science at Liberation University.

Reading is fundamental

Researchers used York University’s Raymond Mar’s Predictors of leisure reading (PoLR) to measure reading behaviors. They then determined the ability of PoLR scores to predict the language skills of 200 undergraduate students.

After completing the PoLR scale, students had to take SAT-like language tests as well as the Author Recognition Test, which measures various reading habits. The higher the score, the stronger the candidate’s reading and language skills. The results were clear: enjoyment and interest in reading predicted higher language skills. Moreover, reading fiction had stronger associations with these high scores than reading non-fiction.

Obviously, reading for fun is very beneficial for both children and adults. Studies show that regular reading is linked to better social skills, critical thinking, and empathy, in addition to improved language skills, vocabulary, and comprehension.

“That ingrained interest, wanting to read something over and over again, feeling compelled to read an entire series, feeling connected to the characters and the writers, those are all good things,” Martin-Chang concludes.

The results appear in the journal Read and write.