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Reading for pleasure report and the National Curriculum for English

The National Curriculum for KS3 English states that students should

All pupils must be encouraged to read widely across both fiction and non-fiction to develop their knowledge of themselves and the world they live in, to establish an appreciation and love of reading, and to gain knowledge across the curriculum. Reading widely and often increases pupils’ vocabulary because they encounter words they would rarely hear or use in everyday speech. Reading also feeds pupils’ imagination and opens up a treasure house of wonder and joy for curious young minds.

Back in May 2012 the DfE’s Education Standards Research Team, ESARD, published a report entitled Research evidence on reading for pleasure which you can download here. The report is a very thorough and balanced one which may not have received as much attention as it deserves. Certainly schools and teachers could make good use of its excellent list of the benefits of reading for pleasure when justifying the use of school time and resources. Here is their list:

The Benefits of reading for pleasure • There is a growing body of evidence which illustrates the importance of reading for pleasure for both educational purposes as well as personal development (cited in Clark and Rumbold, 2006). • Evidence suggests that there is a positive relationship between reading frequency, reading enjoyment and attainment (Clark 2011; Clark and Douglas 2011). • Reading enjoyment has been reported as more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status (OECD, 2002). • There is a positive link between positive attitudes towards reading and scoring well on reading assessments (Twist et al, 2007). • Regularly reading stories or novels outside of school is associated with higher scores in reading assessments (PIRLS, 2006; PISA, 2009). • International evidence supports these findings; US research reports that independent reading is the best predictor of reading achievement (Anderson, Wilson and Fielding, 1988). • Evidence suggests that reading for pleasure is an activity that has emotional and social consequences (Clark and Rumbold, 2006). • Other benefits to reading for pleasure include: text comprehension and grammar, positive reading attitudes, pleasure in reading in later life, increased general knowledge (Clark and Rumbold, 2006).

The report makes very clear the link between the amount a young person reads for pleasure and their academic achievement and this can only be very helpful for any of us who are working to increase the attention which schools give to reading for pleasure.

Reading for pleasure is an activity that has real emotional and social consequences. There is a growing body of evidence which illustrates the importance of reading for pleasure for both educational purposes as well as personal development. The evidence strongly supports the argument that those who read more are better readers; and the amount of reading and reading achievement are thought to be reciprocally related to each other – as reading amount increases, reading achievement increases, which in turn increases reading amount (Cunningham and Stanovich, 1998 – cited in Clark and Rumbold, 2006). Children who read very little do not have the benefits that come with reading, and studies show that when struggling readers are not motivated to read, their opportunities to learn decrease significantly (Baker, Dreher and Guthrie, 2000 – cited in Clark and Rumbold, 2006).

The report goes on to outline some specific approaches that schools can use to increase reading for pleasure. One of these is Rooted in Reading. ESARD refer to the Rooted in Reading research report, which can be downloaded here.

Another example is ‘Rooted in reading’ which is a reading promotion project offering primary and secondary school students a suite of 12 reading ‘passports’ to encourage reading for pleasure. It covers a whole range of ages from children leaning to read through to sixth form students. After reading a book, children complete an entry that takes the form of a short review in their passport. The student, teacher, school or public librarian can then stamp their passport with the project’s tree logo to endorse their reading. A small- scale evaluation in 46 schools in Lincolnshire found that both teachers and pupils reported the amount of time the children spent reading, and their enjoyment of reading had increased since the reading passports had been in use. The most positive responses came from students in an urban primary school on a deprived estate whose attainment level was below both national and local authority means.

Research evidence on reading for pleasure is a very useful document which brings together a lot of important research, both national nod international, in one place. It appears to have had an influence on current government thinking about the key role that reading for pleasure plays in students’ social, emotional and academic development. When completing responses to the consultation on the draft National Curriculum, details of which can be downloaded from the NATE website at, teachers may want to ensure that this emphasis is not lost in the final document by referring to some of the evidence ESARD have collected. Further details of Rooted in Reading passports can be found on the Lincolnshire Teaching School Alliance website.

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