Reading for pleasure

I'm about to take three week's leave and travel with my wife to the US, and in preparation, I've been choosing some novels to take with me to read. Reading for pleasure is one of those activities that can easily be 'lost' in the competition for time to keep abreast of all of the professional reading that comes across my desk, plus, of course, the interminable barrage of emails that require reading and dealing with each day. Yet while reading all of that sort of thing may be intellectually stimulating and professionally engaging, nothing beats the sheer enjoyment of sitting with a good novel and reading purely for pleasure – to get lost on the plot of a gripping thriller, or carried away with the imaginations of an historial novel etc. 

In the modern world, of course, there's more competing with reading for pleasure in the lives of our children than simply reading texts and emails – their lives are full of TV, computer games and other forms of 'quick fix' communications – yet even for them, a good book can be extremely engaging. 

So it was with interest tonight that I came across this briefing note from the Department of Education in the UK, titled  Encouraging reading for pleasure: What the research says on reading for pleasure

The first section of the briefing note highlights research evidence on reading for pleasure from domestic and international literature; exploring evidence on the trends and benefits of independent reading amongst both primary and secondaryaged children, as well as why children read.  The second section of this briefing covers the evidence on what works in terms of promoting reading for pleasure.

Some highlights from the paper:

What are the benefits of reading for pleasure?

  • Children who say they enjoy reading for pleasure are more likely to score well on reading assessments compared to pupils who said they enjoyed reading less
  • There is some evidence to show that reading for pleasure is a more important determinant of children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status
  • It can have a positive impact on pupils’ emotional and social behaviour It can have a positive impact on text comprehension and grammar.

What works in improving independent reading?

  • An important factor in developing reading for pleasure is providing choice – choice and interest are highly related
  • Parents and the home environment are essential to the early teaching of reading and fostering a love of reading; children are more likely to continue to be readers in homes where books and reading are valued
  • Reading for pleasure is strongly influenced by relationships between teachers and children, and children and families.

No particular surprises here for those who have been involved in teaching reading for a while – but a very useful paper to support teachers and schools that may be considering bringing back the good old 'silent reading' period in class, or promoting reading for pleasure as a key part of their reading programme. 

The full paper can be accessed as a PDF file here

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