The Matthew Effect in Reading – What Is It and Why It Is Important

The Matthew Effect in Reading

Reading is an amazingly powerful learning tool. When we think about its involvement in our education and the level of knowledge we can reach through reading alone, it becomes obvious that the only limits to what we can achieve are the ones we set up for ourselves. The cumulative aspect of learning through reading is an interesting concept that can change the way we approach reading as an activity. Also called the Matthew effect in reading, this can play a huge role in our education.

With Basmo, you don’t only get an amazing tool to aid your reading habits and to boost your performance, you also gain access to very useful information. To help you better understand what the Matthew effect in reading is and how to use it to your advantage, we did some research on the topic, and here is what we found.

What Is the “Matthew Effect” in Reading?

The Matthew effect in reading refers to the idea that those with a solid and early-created foundation will accumulate experience and knowledge at a higher rate than those who have a late start. Those who learn to read at an early age will have an advantage over those who do it later in life and will take advantage of accumulating knowledge that keeps piling on.

Also known as the Matthew effect of accumulated advantage or the Matthew principle, this term refers to the idea that people have a tendency to acquire more or less depending on their starting point. This can refer to wealth, popularity, or knowledge and represents the same phenomenon summarized by the age-old saying “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer”. 

Even though the term has been first coined by American sociologist Robert Merton back in 1968, the origins of the phenomenon described are much older. The term “Matthew Effect” has been inspired by a Bible verse from the book of Matthew 25:29 “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

While the Bible verse that inspired Robert Merton to name this phenomenon refers mostly to wealth, its meaning can be applied to a whole lot of different other things, including knowledge and reading.

The idea Robert Merton mostly wanted to bring forward was that the importance of the starting point a person has in life is likely to influence how that person’s life is going to evolve. This is equally true when it comes to wealth, popularity, and knowledge.

Why Should You Know About the “Matthew Effect” in Reading?

Understanding the Matthew effect in reading and its importance in education, especially at a young age, can play a huge role in how we approach reading for several reasons. It can help children, parents, and teachers by providing a foundation for the reasoning behind early education and it can influence decisions that will later have a powerful effect on the life of our young ones. 

The idea that good readers read more while poor readers read less is an important aspect to take into account as an educator or parent. Helping children overcome their reading difficulties as early as possible will have a tremendous effect on how they approach their education and the academic results they will have in later years. 

Here is why keeping the Matthew effect in mind at all times is particularly important.

1. To Identify Issues and Intervene Early

Children learn at different rates depending on a wide range of factors. Identifying the difficulties they face and the struggles they encounter early in the process of learning to read can have cascading effects in later years. 

While most teachers and parents don’t get alarmed when children have a hard time learning to read properly, keeping the Matthew effect in mind and recognizing the importance of providing the students with the attention and tools they require to overcome the learning difficulties they are facing can change the teaching approach.

Identifying these issues early and intervening as early and decisive as possible is of utmost importance. 

2. Changing Strategies

Both as a parent and an educator, identifying children who struggle with the process of learning to read should trigger a response in terms of the teaching strategies applied. While some children respond better to a theoretical approach, others need visual aids and simply more practice. 

Taking into account the cumulative effect of acquiring knowledge through reading, the importance of applying the right strategies when teaching children who are struggling with the process is easy to understand. 

3. Promoting Equality of Chances

Understanding the way the Matthew effect works in education and reading can be a great promoter of equality in chances. Looking at the greater picture, authorities should take into account how important early education is for future generations and take the right measures to ensure that children have access to the right resources.

Investing in an efficient educational system targeting early school years can have a cascading effect, creating better-educated generations that will later “return the favor” by performing well in the job market, contributing to science, or making technological advances. 

Literacy is an incredibly relevant way to measure the level of success you can expect from a society and involving the Matthew effect in the decision-making process could lead to some very rewarding changes in policies around the world.  

4. Reading Motivation

The Matthew effect in reading can also have an important impact on motivation. Starting from the premise that good readers read more and poor readers read less, we can easily conclude that struggling readers will also eventually lose motivation to keep doing it.

This will lead to an exponentially widening gap between good readers and poor readers that will have a tremendous effect during the forming years, their level of education, and their later career performance.

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How Can You Influence the “Matthew Effect” in Reading?

While the importance of the Matthew effect in reading refers to how it affects children mostly, there are ways we can take advantage of it as adults as well. Understanding the phenomenon and using it to our advantage can have a positive effect on our habits and performance. 

Here are some ways you can use the Matthew Effect to your advantage.

1. Be Consistent

The Matthew effect in reading mainly refers to looking at your already acquired information as building blocks for future knowledge. To keep this cycle going, you need to be active and consistent with your reading habits. 

You need to be aware of the importance of pushing on and continuously building on top of the foundation you have. To do this, you need healthy reading habits and a mindful approach to reading.

Consistency is key to personal growth. A healthy approach to reading and small efforts every day can have a huge effect later in life. 

2. Diversify

Acquiring information will increase your general knowledge. An important aspect you should always keep in mind is that you should try to diversify your reading portfolio as much as possible, even if that means stepping outside your comfort zone. 

The Matthew effect in reading comprehension has a cumulative impact on your general knowledge regardless of the topic you are reading about or studying. Having a more diverse reading list and going from one topic to another can have a positive effect. 

The more you read, the more you learn and the more you realize how much there is still for you to learn. Take advantage of the Matthew effect by exponentially increasing your knowledge and setting goals for your reading through multiple genres and topics.

3. Read Actively 

Reading actively requires a different level of involvement in the process and that generally leads to better comprehension and information retention from each reading session. Combined with the awareness of the Matthew effect and its power to help personal development, it makes perfect sense to try and make each session count.

By continuously making an effort to read actively and therefore extract maximum value from each reading session, you will improve your general knowledge, your vocabulary, and your understanding of different topics. Through the Matthew effect, each additional session will come with more information and details, which will lead to an increased level of comprehension and understanding of the subject at hand. 

4. Use Basmo to Consolidate Your Reading Habits

Since the Matthew effect mainly consists of the accumulative effect of reading, as I mentioned before, the key to taking full advantage of it is to simply be consistent with your reading habits and read as much as possible with a level of mindfulness that allows you to take in as much from the experience as you can.

Using a reading tracking app like Basmo can have a positive effect on your reading habits and performance. Here’s how Basmo can help you reach your reading goals and continue to accumulate knowledge to improve your life.

Create a reading schedule. To make sure you are consistent with your reading, you need a structured approach. Scheduling your reading sessions will ensure that you maximize the time you have and that you will not miss any opportunities when it comes to reading. With Basmo, you can schedule reading sessions on as many days of the week as you want and even at different times on each separate day.

Keep track of your goals. With Basmo, you can set achievable reading goals to keep yourself motivated to power through. You can choose a simple daily goal for the number of minutes you read every day or a big-picture yearly goal for the total number of books you get to read in a whole year.

Create reading lists. As mentioned, you can use the Matthew effect to your advantage by diversifying the things you read. With Basmo, you can easily create reading lists based on genre, topic, or whatever criteria seems appropriate for your goals. Creating and managing your lists is easy and quick, and you have complete freedom when it comes to the way you personalize them.

Chat with our AI bot. If you are looking for a more in-depth connection with the books you read and therefore be more involved in the process of actively reading them, you can also chat with them. Our app comes with an AI Chatbot you can access through each book in your collection and you can use this opportunity to ask for details about that particular title, ask questions about the things that are unclear, or even request a summary. 

Final Thoughts

The Matthew effect in reading is a potentially very powerful tool if you learn to use it to your advantage. Understanding its importance can lead to better reading habits, increased motivation to read, and better awareness of how essential reading is for our young ones. Use Basmo to consolidate your reading habits and take advantage of all its benefits. 

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