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15 Principles underpinning reading for pleasure

Back in November 2010 I was invited to go down to London to lead a research seminar at the DfE on the reading for pleasure promotion project, Rooted in Reading which I had begun in 2008.

While walking the dog the night before the seminar it occurred to me that, although I had conducted plenty of research into the effectiveness of the project, including basing my MA thesis on this issue, I had never sat down and codified the underlying principles behind this work. There is, of course, plenty of research into the positive impact of reading for pleasure on reading attainment, general knowledge, empathic skills, writing skills and many other positive things but most of this is hidden away in reports and articles that are not necessarily easy to locate. It is certainly time consuming to wade through it all. One of the clearest and most important pieces of research, Mapping the Interrelationships of reading enjoyment, attitudes, behaviour and attainment by Clark and de Zoysa (2011) had not then been published by the National Literacy Trust. I decided it would be useful to see whether I could distill my thoughts and the fruits of my reading into a set of clear principles that would serve as a useful introduction for the seminar but also as a handy document for schools to use as a basis for their own reading promotion projects. The resulting list of Principles, consciously influenced by Daniel Pennac’s The Rights of the Reader is as follows:

1. Reading for enjoyment, including reading aloud to others, is a good thing that should be promoted. 2. The more people read, the better. 3. Texts can take many different forms. 4. Readers should be able to follow their own interests. 5. It is good to have some variety in your reading. 6. Reading is a worthwhile and rewarding activity in itself. 7. Readers can become better at responding to texts if they talk and write about them. 8. Reading for pleasure is directly linked to academic performance. 9. The more you read, the better at it you become. 10. If you get better at reading, your writing will also improve. 11.Reading can increase your understanding of others and the world around you. 12.Reading can help you understand yourself. 13.Reading for pleasure is primarily a private activity but it can have a social aspect. 14.Children need to see adults enjoying reading. 15.Reading experiences are important enough to record and share.

You may quibble with some of these but I think there is a strong research basis behind all the Principles. If used as the basis for a whole school reading policy they should help everyone – parents, governors, teachers and pupils – to grasp the central importance of reading and to understand why so much is being done to encourage this practice. I hope the list will be used to stimulate debate in schools and I welcome your comments. But above all I hope this list will free up schools to go beyond worrying about why reading deserves to be encouraged and get on with the vital job of doing just that, to benefit our students and to enrich and nourish our society. If you would like more information about Rooted in Reading contact the Lincolnshire Teaching School Alliance or click here to download an order form.

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