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After-school fun boosts success

Canada After-school sports, arts classes and even strong friendships help to improve children's academic performance, says a new report based on a study of 23,000 Canadian four to 15-year-olds.

The 199899 National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth found that 29 per cent of those who had little or no involvement in activities showed delayed development in vocabulary, more than double the 13 per cent who participated in organised activities.

The survey also found that more than 40 per cent of young people who did not participate in outside activities reported either difficulties with friends or that they rarely saw them outside of school, compared to 12 per cent of those students who were regular participants.

Sixteen per cent of those who rarely participated in organised activities reported low self-esteem, against 4 per cent of children involved in sport, art ormusic.

Dawn Walker, executive director of the Canadian Institute of Child Health, said: "The findings come as no surprise. We've known for a long time that children who are connected to their community, schools and families will have higher self-esteem and an easier time making and keeping friends."

Alan Mirabelli, executive director of the Vanier Institute of the Family, said the survey shows how out-of-school activities influence achievement. "It's hardly surprising that kids who are engaged in soccer, hockey or arts classes generally outperform their peers. Part of the reason has to do with things learned, which shows up in the study as vocabulary."

He said children growing up in difficult economic circumstances could be denied the kind of activities that help to develop their social and intellectual training and development.

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