Reading when the sun does not shine: The effect of reading on children’s academic performance

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Does reading affect children’s academic performance? Drawing on Scholarly Culture Theory, I hypothesize that children’s reading outside of school fosters skills that enhance their academic performance. The main inferential challenge is that children who read more are likely to have other characteristics that enhance their skills, thereby complicating causal interpretation. To address this challenge, I use cross-time variation in the amount of sunshine that children are exposed to as a natural experiment that affects whether they read, but that I argue has no direct effect on their academic performance. I hypothesize that sunshine affects whether children read or not more in families with more scholarly culture (books and newspaper in the home) and higher socioeconomic status (SES) because these children have the necessary skills, means and motivations to take up reading when the sun shines less. Empirical results based on analyses of time-diary data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics – Child Development Supplement show that (1) children who were exposed to more sunshine were less likely to read and (2) reading has a positive effect on reading, but not math, test scores.
Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch in Social Stratification and Mobility
Pages (from-to)100485
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

Number of downloads are based on statistics from Google Scholar and

No data available

ID: 236220691