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How can reading improve Children’s Mental Health?

Children’s Mental Health Week 2024 began on the 5th of February and runs until the 11th. The theme behind the initiative this year is “My Voice Matters”.

Place2Be founded Children’s Mental Health Week UK in 2015 to raise awareness about children’s mental health. Their mission is to equip children with the tools to empower themselves and use their voices.[1] Reading Solutions UK is equally committed to empowering children and young people, using reading as a skill to help them through their lives.

Does reading help children’s mental health?

Reading is not just a means of learning; it has been found, time and again, to help young people’s mental well-being.

It has been proven that reading is more important to a child’s educational success than their socio-economic status.[2] The skills that reading provides make all the difference to a child or young person’s life.

While reading, children constantly practice emotional skills. The World Health Organisation noted the importance of emotional skills when determining mental health.[3] From sitting still and concentrating to the empathy from reading stories about others, the benefits of reading from a young age push children to learn crucial emotional skills – strengthening their resilience.

How does reading improve children’s mental health?

Reading improves cognitive function, and the absorption of stories helps understand the world.

Cambridge University[4] has linked reading for pleasure in childhood with healthier mental well-being in the teenage years. Strong engagement with reading in the early stages (ages three to nine) fuels well-being later in life. Higher reading proficiency results in a greater ability to learn as a teenager, better mental health, and more consistent sleep patterns.

Introducing subjectification

Professor of Education Gert Biesta breaks education objectives into three parts:

  • Community.
  • Academic qualification.
  • Subjectification.[5]

Community and academic qualifications are already developed through a school’s social and academic aspects.

Subjectification is Biesta’s term, meaning the concept of personal development, in essence, becoming an informed human being. This happens through a child’s interactions in school but can also be significantly accelerated with reading for pleasure.

The Library and Information Association found that reading for pleasure develops a child’s empathy and well-being and improves their relationship with others.[6] These traits can be considered subjectification.

Research into reading and children’s mental health

Benefits identified in the most recent National Literacy Trust (NLT) report on reading for mental well-being show the existing strengths in reading.[7] For example, children between the ages of eight and eleven are the most engaged across all reading categories:

  • The curious reader – seeking to learn and understand the world.
  • The mindful reader – children who explore and manage their emotions with reading.
  • The social reader – readers who want to connect with their peers and the world.

The report also shared that:

  • 3 in 5 children and young people said reading helped them relax.
  • Nearly 1 in 2 said reading made them feel happy.
  • 3 in 10 said reading made them feel more confident or helped them deal with problems.[8]

The 50% who feel happy while reading are building a skill that will improve mental health throughout their lives. The 29.8% of children who grow confidence with reading are recognising that their voice matters.

Furthermore, they also cited crucial figures such as:

“Children and young people who are the most engaged with literacy are three times more likely to have higher levels of mental well-being than children who are the least engaged.” – Clark & Teravainen-Goff, 2018[9]

The importance of ‘My Voice Matters’

As subjectification grows, so do children’s emotional skills. They reach a stronger position to believe ‘My Voice Matters’. They can use their voices to stand up for what they believe in.

Empowerment has a strong positive impact on children’s mental health, improving their well-being and giving them the tools to express themselves. Children who believe their voices are heard have a greater sense of community and self-esteem.[10]

As part of Children’s Mental Health Week, Reading Solutions UK had the opportunity to partner with children’s author Hannah Durkan. We are delighted to share our first Meet the Author feature of 2024, where Hannah discusses the importance of this year’s theme, ‘My Voice Matters’, and how she engages with this as an author and within her Zeina Starborn series.

Hannah also collaborated with our Reading Plus Champions to celebrate children’s voices being heard. Keep an eye out to see how they got on!

How does Reading Plus help support children’s mental health?

The PISA study (2023) found that 71% of UK pupils agreed that “digital learning resources available at my school make learning interesting”.[11]

Texts within the Reading Plus content library reflect different viewpoints and cultures. They are also topical and explore themes surrounding mental health, empowerment, and ‘My Voice Matters’.

Our online reading development programme, Reading Plus, is designed to encourage reading for pleasure, and feedback from pupils has consistently reflected this, with children commenting:




Book our free four-week pilot to see how Reading Plus can improve reading for pleasure in your school.


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