The influence of reading ability on subsequent changes in verbal IQ in the teenage years

Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2013 Oct;6:30-9. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2013.06.001. Epub 2013 Jun 25.


Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is regularly used in both education and employment as a measure of cognitive ability. Although an individual's IQ is generally assumed to stay constant across the lifespan, a few studies have suggested that there may be substantial variation at the individual level. Motivated by previous reports that reading quality/quantity has a positive influence on vocabulary acquisition, we hypothesised that reading ability in the early teenage years might contribute to changes in verbal IQ (VIQ) over the next few years. We found that good readers were more likely to experience relative improvements in VIQ over time, with the reverse true for poor readers. These effects were largest when there was a discrepancy between Time 1 reading ability and Time 1 VIQ. In other words, VIQ increases tended to be greatest when reading ability was high relative to VIQ. Additional analyses supported these findings by showing that variance in VIQ change associated with Time 1 behaviour was also associated with independent measurements of brain structure. Our finding that reading in the early teenage years can predict a significant proportion of the variance in subsequent VIQ change has implications for targeted education in both home and school environments.

Keywords: Adolescence; IQ; Literacy; MRI; Neuroimaging; Reading.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Adolescent Development*
  • Aging / psychology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence*
  • Male
  • Reading*
  • Vocabulary*
  • Wechsler Scales