Bill Gates says the best thing you can do for kids is read with them

On the occasion of Bill and Melinda Gates’ annual public letter, Quartz asked Bill Gates for advice on what parents of young children should focus on.

Here’s what he says are the most important ingredients of academic and professional success and happiness, that parents have within their control.

“You can certainly control your kids’ exposure to being read to and encouraging them to read. And the breadth of vocabulary and amount of discussion—taking whatever they’re curious about and giving them time to talk to them about those things. There’s the genetic elements and there are the environmental elements, and those exposure times—breadth and depth—clearly have long-term impacts.”

His answer is noteworthy, given the years and funding that the Gates Foundation has devoted to improving education. It’s also interesting that he doesn’t refer to broader attributes such as grit, or more specific skills such as learning to code.

Gates is himself known for being an avid reader. You can follow his reading list and see book reviews Gates has written on his blog.

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