Teachers believe eBooks benefit primary pupils' reading but only a third have access
LONDON, UK – Report reveals primary teachers believe eBooks have a positive impact on children’s reading for pleasure, reading choice, motivation, comprehension and independent reading, yet access to these resources remains out of reach for the majority.
A new report on the impact of eBooks on reading for pleasure has been published by the National Literacy Trust in association with Pearson, the world’s leading digital media learning company. The report, Using eBooks to support reading for pleasure in 2023 brings together responses from more than 500 primary educators, including classroom teachers, headteachers and SENCOs, and paints an illuminating picture of digital tools and their perceived impact on primary pupils today.
Key findings from the report show that:
- Around 3 in 5 (56%) primary teachers use digital tools and resources to support literacy in the classroom.
- Three times more teachers whose pupils had access to eBooks rated their school’s culture of reading for pleasure as excellent than those whose pupils did not have access (18% vs 6%).
- Three times as many teachers whose pupils had access to eBooks, felt it increased their pupils’ reading confidence than those whose pupils did not have access (37% vs. 12%).
- Three quarters (74%) of primary teachers who use digital tools agree that it is important to offer different reading formats to support children’s reading.
- Despite a third (35%) of primary teachers who use digital tools believing that reading on a digital platform is becoming more important in society, only 1 in 3 (33%) teachers who use digital tools say their pupils have access to a school eBook library and 1 in 6 (16%) have access to one at home.
The benefits of eBook use are far reaching, with more than three-quarters of teachers whose pupils’ access eBooks believing they can support opportunities for personalised learning (77%) and reading for pleasure (76%) in all children. 58% believe they enhance engagement in reading, over half (54%) say eBooks provide an opportunity to support different learning needs, and a quarter (26%) feel eBooks encourage greater family engagement with books and reading.
Access to an eBook library is reported by over 80% of all respondents who used digital tools to provide a positive impact on children’s reading enjoyment (86%), choice (85%) and motivation (83%), with over three quarters reporting benefits to comprehension (76%) and independent reading (77%). What’s more, teachers without access to eBook libraries reported a desire to access more high-quality books that are diverse and interactive, with on-screen features to offer adaptive, personalised learning.
Building on existing research that stresses the importance of reading for pleasure in boosting literacy, wellbeing and long-term socioeconomic outcomes for children, the report also explored current barriers to the use of eBooks in primary schools, despite their many benefits. These include a general lack of staff training and professional development, as well as a lack of staff confidence around digital resources – this in spite of the widespread use of digital tools in the 2020-21 Covid-19 lockdowns.
Speaking about the findings, Lindsay Nadin, Director of Primary at Pearson, said: “These are hugely important insights from the frontline of primary classrooms, and indicate a strong appetite from primary teachers for diverse, adaptive choices that bring all learners enjoyment through reading – and so vitally strengthen their literacy skills along the way.
“There is much to love about current advances in the digital landscape – especially around how tools can deepen a passion for reading in schools – but the presence of a digital divide must not be overlooked.
“Given national warnings that fewer children enjoy reading in their free time, extending access to eBooks outside school1 – with engaging options that can be accessed on mobile phones, tablets and other onscreen devices – could be a vital step in switching learners on to literacy. This is especially pertinent for the 1 in 10 children from lower-income backgrounds who do not have a book of their own at home.2”
Dr Christina Clark, Director of Research and Evaluation at The National Literacy Trust, said: “The percentage of children and young people who tell us that they enjoy reading, and read for pleasure daily, has been on a downward trend in recent years, with reading enjoyment at its lowest level in 15 years. It is therefore imperative that we explore every way possible to support children’s reading, and we hope that these new insights into teachers’ experiences and perceptions of using eBooks contribute to the evidence base around digital support for reading for pleasure at school and at home.”
Pearson are committed to ensuring every child can develop a lifelong love of reading no matter their ability, background or identity. As part of this commitment, Pearson has created Bug Club Reading Corner. Reading Corner is an online reading-for-pleasure library for primary pupils, with over 100 beautiful books by a range of diverse authors and illustrators. Children can choose books to read according to their interests. Books in Reading Corner are mobile-friendly and Reception and KS1 books offer Read-To-Me audio options, enabling even more children to access exciting stories at school, at home and elsewhere. You can try Reading Corner free for 30 days as part of Pearson’s all- new Bug Club eBook Library.
With a subscription to Pearson’s Bug Club eBook Library, educators looking for support around reading for pleasure can also access professional development created in partnership with Professor Teresa Cremin and her team at The Open University. There are six online modules covering a range of teaching topics, including building communities of readers.
Lindsay continued: “As we continue to seek the views of teachers, parents and pupils, we are committed to ensuring the next chapter is collaborative, so that every child can be part of the story.”
Find out more on our dedicated web page.
1 “Our latest research reveals that children’s reading enjoyment is at its lowest level in almost two decades,” National Literacy Trust, Sept 2023
2 “Book ownership in 2022,” The National Literacy Trust, updated January 2023