An expression coined in 1968, by psychologist, Robert Merton, it refers to the tendency for early advantage to augment over time.
It’s taken from a line from the bible. From the Gospel of Matthew, in fact. (But you were already there, weren’t you!)
“For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” Matthew 13:12
Or something like that!
Some time later (in 1986) Keith Stanovich applied it to reading.
Bear in mind that reading is a skill that we’ve invented. Our brains haven’t evolved to have a reading module. Rather, parts of the brain have been enlisted to learn how to make sense of the squiggles and sounds and structures that constitute reading and writing.
No wonder it’s a huge challenge for some.
Stanovich showed that kids who have a good strong start to reading when they set off, acquire more vocabulary and therefore background knowledge. This, naturally enough, leads to increased enjoyment of reading, which encourages more of it, of course.
You might call it a vicious circle of learning.
Conversely though, the opposite is true. Children who don’t have the best start, can often continue to struggle and fall behind.
So it just goes to show how right my mum was about teaching her ‘little ones’ to read in her infant reception class.
You only get one go at your first reading experience.
Gotta make it a good one!