The positive impacts of reading for pleasure have been generally accepted by the educational establishment for some time, and yet this does not always seem to match the priorities laid out – either in terms of time within the curriculum or funding provided to support it. Education is now facing one of the biggest challenges, in supporting children’s recovery from the impacts of the pandemic and reading and wellbeing are at the top of the list.
As well as being one of the greatest indicators of academic success, it is generally accepted that reading for pleasure positively affects mental health, self-esteem, empathy, mood and stress.
Books are powerful wellbeing tools in their own right! Reading provides children with endless opportunities to escape from day-to-day worries and explore new situations and different emotions. The process of engaging with many different characters helps children develop their empathy and learn about cultures and relationships. It is also no secret that in difficult times these characters can provide a sense of comfort and help children and adults feel less alone
If we want to motivate young readers, knowing what they like to read and enabling them to choose is essential. Choice and agency in reading matter. Using data from 1194 children aged 8-11 years who took part in the Attitude to Reading survey provided by Bounce Together and written by the School Library Association, Teresa Cremin and Becky Coles of The Open University have put together a fantastic new short report.
The findings re-enforce much of what is ‘known’ about creating a vibrant and impactful reading culture within a school; but some findings provide a challenge.
Amongst the most notable findings is that 12% of respondents indicated they didn’t like any books or stories. Although this number may seem low, these are schools which are already engaged with reading to some extent ,and an additional 2% didn’t answer the question.
The responses to the question ‘When you’ve finished reading something, how do you choose what to read next?’ also provide a challenge for schools. Over half (56%) said their preferred way to choose the next book was simply to look at the shelves, and only 14% said they’d ask an adult. This highlights the importance of reading environments being easily navigable and browsing strategies being explicitly taught. Cremin and Coles write: “Perhaps the young people do not see adults as readers, do not often experience adults reading and have limited access to reading role models. Or perhaps they perceive that the adult - a teacher, parent or librarian will prescribe a text, not offer a choice, and follow this up with some form of checking or assessment?”
Teresa Cremin, Professor of Education at The Open University, says “In order to motivate young readers, knowing them as readers and enabling them to choose is essential. Teachers must also be able to make informed recommendations to broaden children’s reading repertoires, and this means widening professional knowledge of children’s texts too.”
Bob Wilkinson, Bounce Together MD said: “We are delighted to be working with the School Library Association and The Open University to shed more light on what children are, and want to, read. Reading for pleasure positively affects mental health, self-esteem, empathy, mood and stress. It is also no secret that in difficult times these characters can provide a sense of comfort and help children and adults feel less alone, and we’re pleased to be supporting schools in this important work.”
Alison Tarrant, CEO of the School Library Association, said: “Working to understand each individual child’s attitude to reading is vital as part of the work of making reading something children want to do intrinsically. Ultimately, it’s about their passions, interests, abilities and dislikes and only through understanding these better are school staff better able to inform and inspire a love of reading. We’re so pleased that this survey is being used by schools and the report highlights many areas of work for schools across the UK, and we will continue to work to support school staff in this important area.”
You can download the full report HERE