Do you remember reading and writing for pleasure during your school days? Perhaps your class had a cosy nook for devouring books during breaks – or maybe a teacher enthused you with the joy of making up your own stories just because. If so, you may not realise what a great springboard that was for later life.
More than play
At the time, you might have felt those pleasurable pastimes were ‘only’ play.
In fact, the chances are they had a profound impact on your development.
Through creative moments – such as reading comics, inventing characters, experimenting with words, their sounds, their meaning – we sharpen our powers of empathy, increase our general knowledge, and improve our grasp of grammar and vocabulary, not to mention communication.1
Yet engagement is low
For today’s pupils, however, reading and writing for pleasure are the two skills with which young learners are least engaged. Independent research commissioned by Pearson sought the views of almost 3,000 primary and English secondary school teachers, and found that almost one in five (17%) believed writing for pleasure was the skill pupils engaged with the least, shortly followed by reading for pleasure (14%). The lack of engagement for these two skills came in just behind presentation and public speaking (18%).
Why it matters
But is this really an issue? some people will ask when seeing those statistics. Surely reading to study is reading enough?
Well, the research suggests otherwise.
As well as the personal benefits noted above, studies indicate that extra-curricular reading, and positive attitudes towards the skill, mean higher scores on reading assessments – and that being able to read for pleasure is more important for educational success than socio-economic status.2
Finding the fun
Which is why we feel it’s so important to champion initiatives that encourage young learners to find fun on the page. In the popular annual competition, My Twist on a Tale, for instance – which invites storytellers aged 4 to 19 to create new stories, pen their thoughts, and share their work with the world.
Fortunately, despite the challenges around engagement, confidence in English teaching is currently high among educators, with almost 75% of primary and English secondary teachers reporting confidence in supporting mixed-ability classrooms, as well as making English fun and creative. Though there’s clearly work to be done, it’s a thrill to support them in this – and build on that positive confidence to boost enjoyment, and achievement, together.
1. Selection taken from Education Standards Research Team, Research Evidence on Reading for Pleasure, Department for Education 2012, at this web address
2. OECD, Reading For Change Performance And Engagement Across Countries, results from PISA 2000