“Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success; more so than family circumstances, parents’ education or socio-economic status.”
(OECD, 2002)

Whilst we use a wide range of reading material as a springboard for learning, one of the most important priorities for us at Miserden school, is to encourage reading for pleasure. Books can be a wonderful way to escape on an adventure, to excite and thrill in a way that games and movies simply cannot and to create memories, which last a lifetime.

Many studies have shown that reading for pleasure is associated with increases in:

  • General knowledge
  • Understanding of other cultures
  • Reading attainment
  • Writing ability
  • Text comprehension
  • Grammar
  • Language development
  • Range of vocabulary

Frequent reading for pleasure is correlated with higher PIRLS literacy scores, compared to both less frequent reading and reading for information.

Reading Frequency and Literacy Scores
Source: DfE internal analysis based on PIRLS data (2006)

Less well known are the benefits associated with personal development, mental health and wellbeing.

Studies have demonstrated that reading for pleasure positively impacts:

  • Self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Concentration levels and attention span
  • Social skills and empathy
  • Decision-making
  • Resilience
  • Sleeping patterns

Conversely, children with reading difficulties are at greater risk of developing mental health problems later in life, such as depression, anxiety, behavioural problems, anger and aggression.

A recent online poll of over 4000 adults, showed that people who regularly read for pleasure reported fewer feelings of stress and depression than non-readers, and stronger feelings of relaxation from reading than from watching television, engaging with social media, or reading other leisure material.

Sadly, reading for pleasure is on the decline.

21% of 0-17 year olds rarely, or ever read for pleasure (up from 13% in 2012) and Childwise 2021 found that a quarter of 5-16 year olds never read for pleasure. (Farshore Learnings from Lockdown 2021)

Across all age ranges, the number of children reading to themselves for pleasure, is showing a significant decline.

Decline in Reading for Pleasure
Source: Farshore Learnings from Lockdown

Over the same period, a steep and rapid increase in preference for screen-based entertainment (smartphones, tablets, consoles and online gaming) has been reported.

Increase in Preference for Screen-Based Entertainment
Source: Farshore Learnings from Lockdown

Less children than ever are discovering what incomparable joy can be found in a story that they really connect with. Good books can stay with us forever and the very best really can change our lives. We’re currently seeing a golden age for children's literature, with wonderful established authors such as Vashti Hardy, Kieran Larwood, Onjali Q Raúf, Katherine Rundell and Kiran Millwood Hargrave, as well as frequently published debut novels from exciting new authors.

There really is a book for everyone.

How we’re trying to help

Following involvement with Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils, all staff are trying to nurture a passion for reading, leading by example and reading children’s books ourselves. Building on our knowledge of books, to improve our chances of putting the right book, into the right child’s hands, at the right time.

We’re re-vamping our reading corners to make them more exciting and appealing. Highlighting books with synopses, reviews and ratings. Our reading tree is now home to reviews from the pupils, of books that they’ve read and helping others with choosing what to read next.

We’re expanding our range of both fiction and non-fiction reading material, to include more picture books, graphic novels, magazines and biographies, as well as a wider selection of chapter books for all ages, abilities and interests.

We’re currently running a reading challenge, where pupils receive points for finishing books and writing a short review. We have a running total for the class, with targets to win prizes like a class party and a fun trip out for the day.

Personalised reading bingo, not only adding a fun and competitive element to help encourage reading, but also to help with book recommendations; suggesting books at the correct reading level for each child and also introducing new authors, genres or types of reading material.

More time set aside during the school day, where the children can read for pleasure. We hope to take this further and have a set time every day where children across the school have the opportunity to enjoy their choice of reading, without any comprehension questions, vocabulary checks, or as a basis for pieces of writing.

We’re seeing some exciting changes already, with more children engaging in reading, persevering with books and completing them. Willow class especially, where all the children have a reading book on their desk and many of them visiting Oak class to pick up older and more challenging books, which is fantastic to see. The reading bingo has been well received in Oak class and we’re delighted to see that a number of parents have already bought books on those lists, which the children are enjoying in class. Staff are regularly touring the local charity shops and picking up bargains online, to make even more of these books available in class.

If you have any feedback, suggestions or would like to speak to us about how you could support these initiatives at home, we’d love to hear from you!