*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on PsychCentral.
New research links curiosity in young children with later academic success.
The new study from researchers at the University of Michigan found that curious children are better able to grasp basic math and reading.
Researchers also found that for children from poorer communities, curiosity is even more important for higher academic achievement than for children from more well-off backgrounds, and may serve as a potential target of intervention to close the achievement gap associated with poverty.
Children who have developed a wide range of socio-emotional skills are generally more successful when they start school. These skills include invention, imagination, persistence, attentiveness to tasks, as well as the ability to form relationships and manage feelings, according to Prachi Shah, M.D., who led the research.
According to Shah, most current early learning interventions focus on improving a child’s effortful control, which includes their ability to concentrate or control impulses.
Very few interventions aim to cultivate curiosity in young children — a trait that Shah describes as the joy of discovery and the motivation to seek answers to the unknown.
Data for the current study was drawn from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort. This nationally representative population-based study sponsored by the US Department of Education has followed thousands of children since their birth in 2001.
“Our results suggest that after controlling for other factors associated with higher achievement, curiosity continues to make a small but meaningful contribution to academic achievement,” Shah said.
This trait was found to be as important as effortful control in promoting reading and math academic achievement at kindergarten age, according to the study’s finding.
This was especially true for children who showed an eagerness to learn new things. The relationship between a child’s curiosity and academic achievement was not related to a child’s gender or levels of effortful control, researchers note.
“These findings suggest that even if a child manifests low effortful control, high curiosity may be associated with more optimal academic achievement,” Shah added. “Currently, most classroom interventions have focused on the cultivation of early effortful control and a child’s self-regulatory capacities, but our results suggest that an alternate message, focused on the importance of curiosity, should also be considered.”