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How can you encourage reading for pleasure?

Reading for pleasure is a vital aspect of life, and yet it is currently in decline*.

 

World Book Day, the charity behind the annual celebration that promotes reading for pleasure, defines reading for pleasure as ‘feeling a sense of satisfaction or pleasure by engaging with chosen reading material in their free time’.[2]

Before the COVID-19 lockdown, reading for pleasure was at its lowest level since 2005, with less than half of children and young people aged 9 to 18 saying that they enthusiastically enjoyed reading[3]. There was brief hope for change as this figure improved during lockdown; however, the rates are now back on par with those recorded in early 2020[4]. The progress made has since been forgotten.

In an age where the ability to read for pleasure is instrumental in the ability to engage with society fully, children deserve the best chance to succeed.

Why is reading for pleasure important?

Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success – more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background, or their income[5].

Research compiled from the National Literacy Trust, BookTrust, and more shows that reading enjoyment and literacy levels are associated with educational attainment, employability skills, and health, social, and emotional benefits. Furthermore, reading for pleasure increases self-esteem at age 11, regardless of demographic, socioeconomic, and familial confounders[6].

Additionally, ‘children who read for pleasure simply do better in life. They have a better sense of well-being. They reach greater levels of attainment in all subjects. By feeding knowledge, imagination and by engaging empathy, reading feeds children’s growing humanity. Nothing less than children’s life chances are at stake’. [7]

These factors demonstrate not only the joyful element of reading but also its immense importance in shaping all children’s lives – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

What are the obstacles to reading for pleasure?

Unfortunately, many factors can get in the way of children being able to read for pleasure.

The largest obstacle is often material, and many children struggle with obtaining access to their own books. 1 in 7 pupils said the book they had ‘bought’ with their World Book Day book token (a £1 token which can be exchanged for a £1 World Book Day book or get £1 off a full-price title) had been the first book of their own[8]. For children receiving FSM (free school meals), this statistic rose to 1 in 5[9].

The National Literacy Trust’s ‘Children and young people’s reading engagement in 2022’ report revealed that:

  • The percentage-point gap in reading enjoyment between FSM and non-FSM pupils had more than doubled from 2.1pp in 2020 to 5.0pp in 2022.
  • Boys who received FSMs in 2022 had the lowest levels of reading enjoyment, standing at 39.8% in 2022, having dropped by 6.5 percentage points over the past two years.
  • Fewer than 3 in 10 children and young people aged 8 to 18 said that they read daily in their free time in 2022, the second-lowest level they have ever recorded.
  • Fewer children who receive FSM read daily than those who don’t receive FSM.

Reading Solutions UK firmly believes that reading is a fundamental right for everyone and should not be out of reach for disadvantaged groups. Reading Plus has proven to benefit students eligible for pupil premium in gaining the reading skills necessary to enjoy reading. This is evidenced in our Derby Research Study which recorded that the children eligible for pupil premium using Reading Plus made 97% more progress than the children eligible for pupil premium in the control schools.

How can you encourage reading for pleasure?

Dedicated to finding ways to support reading for pleasure, the ‘Teachers as Readers’ study by The Open University and UK Literacy Association found that teacher’s understanding of their student’s reading habits beyond school scores, targets, and colour bands was very effective in building a reading for pleasure culture.

Gaining knowledge such as a child’s favourite genre or author was a lot more effective than school data in placing teachers in a position to engage with their students regarding reading. It allowed teachers to recommend tailored texts to each student’s interests. It, therefore, meant they didn’t have to rely on gender-based assumptions about preferences – which could previously have been a deterrent for some children when reading.

Openness, reciprocity, and informality stood out as key findings from the study. Teachers sharing their own reading for pleasure preferences and practices connected them with their students. This also helped the students to recognise and share their own preferences and practices.

Throughout the study, children became increasingly more vocal – even introducing teachers to new texts such as digital reading, which led teacher to question their potentially book-bound conceptions of reading. Over time, spontaneous, child-led book chat emerged, with children recommending books to each other without instruction.

The above research is in line with the data from World Book Day’s 2022 Impact Report[10], which identifies six factors to consider when looking to develop a reading-for-pleasure ethos:

  • Being read to regularly.
  • Access to books at home.
  • Giving children the choice to select what they want to read.
  • Having trusted adults and peers sharing and recommending books.
  • Creating a pleasure reading experience.
  • Allowing a dedicated time for students to read.

Reading Plus looks to uphold these elements that get children excited for World Book Day every day. Children can choose which texts they want to read based on their own interests at home and school. The adaptive nature of Reading Plus provides personalised scaffolding support, which ensures students are working at the right level. They are appropriately challenged, which makes the overall reading experience more enjoyable.

Hear from our teachers. 

To encourage reading for pleasure within their schools, many of our teachers have been implementing similar tactics to get children to enjoy reading.

 

  • "Adults demonstrating their own love for books is so important. Also, spending quality time helping children find the right book for them. There's so much out there, and it can be hard navigating when your relationship with books isn't so strong."
    Verity Lee, Assistant Head of School at Sunnyside Spencer Academy
  • "We have worked so hard on increasing reading for pleasure by having a great range of library books of all different genres, teachers reading aloud daily and enthusiastically, and adults talking about their love of reading."
    Helen Haunch, Principal at Dixons Marchbank Primary

How Reading Plus can help.

Reading Plus is home to 1,100 engaging informational, fiction, and non-fiction texts with a diverse range of genres, topics, and characters that can appeal to all students.

Our online programme is available at home and in school, making it easier for parents and carers to be involved in their child’s reading journey.

These factors improve the chances of a child learning to read for pleasure.

 

If you want to improve your student’s life chances by building a reading for pleasure culture, fill out the form below to find out more about Reading Plus or to request a 10-minute introductory call with one of our consultants.

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