If the research proves that 7-year-olds who can read well and do simple math become adults with better jobs and bigger homes, then what is the message for parents and educators? What makes some kids better readers and mathematicians than their peers?
One possible answer is that they were simply born that way. Genetics plays a significant role in determining academic achievements. That's why Ritchie and Bates, the authors of the Psychological Science paper, are conducting a follow-up study of identical twins. By comparing the academic success of two people with the same DNA, the researchers can isolate the impact of nature versus nurture [source: Mikulak].
Family income level is another big factor. According to data from the 18,000-person U.K. survey, there is a significant correlation between a child's socioeconomic status at birth and his or her math and reading skills at age 7. Makes sense that families with more money might send their children to better schools or be able to hire tutors to improve skills.
That's good news for rich folks, but what about the rest of us? Luckily, love and attention also go a long way. A study from the Harvard Family Research Project found that parental influence greatly affected early childhood school performance. Factors included a home environment conducive to cognitive stimulation, parental involvement at school and parental involvement in extracurricular activities [source: Lin].
For educators, Ritchie and Bates' findings support the idea of strong common standards across private and public schools. With this data in hand, educators can see the long-term positive effects when even the youngest kids are taught to read and do math at a high level.