Children who read for pleasure will outperform their peers at school, according to new analysis from the Institute of Education.
The study drew on test scores at five, 10 and 16, taken from the 1970 British Cohort Study.
It found that the children who read for pleasure did better at maths, vocabulary and spelling, compared to those who rarely read. Those who were regularly reading for pleasure by age 10 outperformed those who did not when they reached aged 16.
The research found that regular reading, visiting libraries, and reading newspapers was more important to a child's test scores than a parent's level of education. The combined effect on test results for 16-year-olds was four times greater than if a parent had a degree. Children who were read to as five-year-olds also outperformed those who were not in tests as 16-year-olds.
Sullivan said: "There are concerns that young people's reading for pleasure has declined. There could be various reasons for this, including more time spent in organised activities, more homework, and of course more time spent online.
"However, new technologies, such as e-readers, can offer easy access to books and newspapers and it is important that government policies support and encourage children's reading, particularly in their teenage years."