Thursday, 3 September 2020

Children’s reading news

reading books

My last round-up of research and articles about children’s and young people’s reading was in early March, before lockdown hit. This latest one – illustrated with some of my favourite contemporary and classic books about children’s reading – includes a number of reports about its impact, as well as several other interesting and valuable studies.

Research by Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) reveals that England’s nine and 10-year-olds are bucking international trends by showing an increasingly positive attitude to reading.

The latest annual survey of children’s reading by the National Literacy Trust has less positive findings. Children and young people’s levels of reading enjoyment continue to decrease. Just over half say they enjoy reading, the lowest level since 2013. Children and young people’s daily reading levels are the lowest ever recorded since the survey started in 2005. The gap between girls’ and boys’ engagement in reading is large. A third of children and young people cannot find things to read that interest them. As the report makes clear, these things matter. Children and young people who enjoy reading are three times more likely to read above the level expected for their age than those who don’t, and children who read daily in their free time are twice as likely to read above the level expected for their age than those who don’t.

According to ‘Children and young people’s reading in 2020 before and during the COVID-19 lockdown’ children’s reading enjoyment has increased during lockdown, as has the amount they are reading. Fiction has been particularly popular. Children have reported that reading has supported their mental wellbeing. On the downside, the gap between girls’ and boys’ reading has widened, and for some children and young people the lack of access to books has negatively affected their ability and motivation to read.

NLT research published in July indicates that children have listened to audio books more during lockdown, and that this too has been beneficial in terms of mental wellbeing and interest in reading.

Dr Carina Spaulding of The Reading Agency explores the benefits of family reading in and out of lockdown in a blog for DCMS.

New research tells us that video games help literacy skills in boys and reluctant readers. Video games were also found to be effective at engaging reluctant readers with stories, boosting writing and communication, and supporting mental health during lockdown.

Interesting and useful evidence has been published about the value of watching television with subtitles for children’s reading skills. Subtitles aid vocabulary development, decoding, comprehension and reading fluency. They are immensely beneficial to children who are deaf or have hearing loss. They improve the literacy skills of children who are economically disadvantaged, those who are struggling with reading, and minority language speakers.

A recent study demonstrates that pupils eligible for free school meals are more likely to use the school library daily than their peers who are not eligible. For many, it is a safe haven. Pupils who receive free school meals and use their school library enjoy reading and writing more, read and write for pleasure more, have greater confidence in their reading and writing abilities and engage with a greater diversity of reading material and writing than those who are eligible for FSM but do not use the library.

Finally, the NLT has published an interesting report on the effectiveness of place-based, cross-sector programmes and campaigns in improving outcomes for children.