Reading for pleasure has lifelong benefits for all ages – children especially. As such, it sits at the heart of The Reading Agency’s mission and vision. Here Creative Director, Debbie Hicks, looks at the statistics behind those benefits, and discusses why reading for pleasure is so important.
Some super (important) statistics
Research shows that reading and talking about books helps children’s speech and language development, as well as their ability to understand and reflect on the world around them. It can also help to increase empathy, wellbeing, life skills and confidence. (1)
Research also indicates that reading for pleasure underpins children’s academic attainment: children who read books often at age 10, and more than once a week at age 16, gain higher results in maths, vocabulary and spelling tests at age 16 than those who read less regularly. (2)
Perhaps unsurprisingly, reading for pleasure is similarly associated with higher writing ability, text comprehension, grammar, and general knowledge. (3) And where children’s academic progress may have suffered as a result of the pandemic, reading for pleasure can help to bridge the gap in attainment.
With children spending a significant amount of time out of school and their social groups, reading is often useful for developing confidence, conversational skills and life prospects. Moreover, it can be fundamental to pupils’ mental health and wellbeing, both issues that have become more visible during the past 16 months. In addition to being a form of escapism, reading can help children to understand difficult and complex subjects that may be the source of anxiety or worry. By reading and then talking about books, children can be assisted to externalise and share their feelings.
Our Reading Well collections provide quality-assured curated lists to help individuals understand and manage difficult emotions such as worry and anxiety, as well as to navigate challenging experiences at school, at home and in communities. The Reading Well book lists for children and young people, which include a mix of fiction and non-fiction texts, can be found on the Reading Well website.
Find out more about the Reading Well titles
And don't forget representation
Books are both a mirror to the self and a window to the world. This is why it is important that children read books that include representations of themselves and of others. Schools and families have a great opportunity to diversify children’s extracurricular reading with support coming from senior leadership and increased provision of resources, booklists, and supplementary classroom materials.
The Teachers’ Reading Challenge, run by The Reading Agency in partnership with the Open University, and with support from Pearson, supports school and library staff to widen their repertoire of contemporary children’s texts.
When you sign up for the Challenge you can access the Top 100 Books feature, which lists the most popular books being read as part of the Teachers’ Reading Challenge, along with reviews from thousands of teachers and librarians across the UK.
The current top 5 books explore refugee experiences, neurodiversity, and working-class communities.
Find out more and sign up for the Challenge
The Reading Agency is a national charity working to create a world where everyone can read their way to a better life. We use the proven power of reading to tackle life’s big challenges – building skills and learning, promoting health and wellbeing, and tackling loneliness and social isolation. We do this through UK-wide reading programmes developed in consultation with the audiences they serve, and delivered through schools, prisons, health centres, homes and in public libraries.
Learn more about The Reading Agency