Reading for pleasure is more important for children's cognitive development than their parents' level of education and is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background (Sullivan and Brown, 2013).
A longitudinal study of the impact of the Bookstart programme (Wade and Moore, 2000) indicated gains in mathematics as well as literacy in a 4-year follow-up from participants being aged 9 months.
According to PISA 2009 results (OECD, 2010) 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.
In a Department for Education review (2012) of reading for pleasure among primary and secondary aged children, they emphasise the positive links between reading for pleasure and educational attainment, concluding that reading for pleasure was linked to reading attainment and writing ability; text comprehension and grammar; breadth of vocabulary; and general knowledge.
The Department for Education (2015) estimate that if all pupils in England read for enjoyment every day or almost every day, the boost to Key Stage 2 performance would be the equivalent of a rise of eight percentage points in the proportion achieving a level 4b (from its current level of 67% to 75%).
Greenfield (2009) analysed more than 50 studies on learning and technology, concluding that reading for pleasure develops imagination, induction, reflection and critical thinking, as well as vocabulary.
Focus and concentration
Research with 1,400 nine to ten year olds (Lockwood, 2012) found that they described their pleasure in reading in a way that was similar to the 'flow' experience in motivational theory (becoming wholly focused and committed to the task and experiencing gratification and motivation to complete or repeat it).
There are relatively lower levels of empirical attention paid to individuals choosing to read in their spare time in order to explicitly learn and master new skills and knowledge, or for self-help.
However, in a Department for Education review (2012) of reading for pleasure among primary and secondary aged children, they concluded that reading for pleasure was linked to better general knowledge; a better understanding of other cultures and a greater insight into human nature and decision-making.
Language and literacy
The frequency of reading for pleasure at age 42 is linked to vocabulary skills: those who read every day at 42 have an advantage of 4 percentage points in their vocabulary over those who do not read as frequently (Sullivan and Brown, 2014).
In a Department for Education review (2012) of reading for pleasure among primary and secondary aged children, they concluded that reading for pleasure was linked to reading attainment and writing ability; text comprehension and grammar and breadth of vocabulary.
An OECD report 'Reading for Change' (2002) found that there is a difference in reading performance equivalent to just over a year's schooling between young people who never read for enjoyment and those who read for up to 30 minutes per day.
- Department for Education (2015) Reading: the next steps - supporting higher standards in schools, DfE
- Department for Education (2012). Research evidence on reading for pleasure, Education standards research team, UK Government.
- OECD (2010). PISA 2009 Results: Learning to Learn: Student Engagement, Strategies and Practices p.32-4
- Sullivan, A. and Brown, M. (2013) Social Inequalities in Cognitive Scores at age 16: The role of reading, Centre for Longitudinal Studies Working Paper 2013/10, London: Institute of Education.
- Wade, B., & Moore, M. (2000). A sure start with books. Early Years, 20 (Spring), pp. 39-46.
- Greenfield (2009). Is Technology Producing A Decline In Critical Thinking And Analysis? Science.
- Lockwood, M. (2012). Attitudes to Reading in English Primary Schools. English in Education, 46(3), pp. 228-246.
- OECD (2002) Reading for Change: Performance and engagement across countries. pp.16-17
- Sullivan and Brown (2014) Vocabulary from adolescence to middle-age. Working Paper, Institute of Education, University of London.n.