Reading Outcomes Framework Toolkit

What is the Reading Outcomes Framework Toolkit?

This is a practical Toolkit to help evaluate activities that encourage reading for pleasure and empowerment. It includes:

How will it help me?

It will help you understand, demonstrate and improve the impact of your activity to encourage reading. It will support you to make the case for investment and advocate for reading, by outlining existing evidence about the outcomes of reading and providing guidance about gathering evidence for the contribution your work makes to these outcomes. It will strengthen evaluation methods across the reading sector.

How do I use it?

You use the Toolkit to plan and carry out evaluations. The diagram below takes you through the stages you will need to follow and further guidance is available on the following pages, including practical examples.

Start with your evaluation questions. What do you want to find out by doing an evaluation?

  1. Step 1

    Identify your outcomes
    What are you trying to achieve and for whom?
  2. Step 2

    Design the methods
    What sort of data will you collect? When will you measure? Who will you include?
  3. Step 3

    Choose your measures
    How will you measure your desired outcomes?
  4. Step 4

    Design your tools (e.g.survey) and collect the data
  5. Step 5

    Analyse & learn
    Did you achieve the outcomes? How? What could be improved? How does this compare to what others have found? See section: Evidence

How was it developed?

The project is led by a collaborative steering group of organisations in the reading sector, in consultation with wider stakeholders. The process has been supported by research and evaluation experts at OPM, BOP Consulting, Renaisi and The Social Innovation Partnership.

Credit: Justin Sutcliffe

Who is it for?

It can be used by anyone working to encourage reading for pleasure and empowerment, for example in charities, libraries, schools, colleges, early years settings, family learning, prisons and health.

What do the key terms mean?

The Toolkit focuses on reading for pleasure and empowerment, which is reading as a way to spend time and for entertainment, or for self-cultivation and self-development. It is reading that takes place voluntarily; the reader chooses what or when to read. It includes reading fiction, non-fiction, digital materials, print materials, picture books, comics, newspapers, magazines, listening to others read or to audio books and shared reading.

The Toolkit helps you evaluate activities, which are programmes, initiatives, interventions or pieces of work that you carry out with a target group to encourage reading for pleasure and empowerment. Activities can focus on encouraging individuals to read or on shared reading (for example, parents or carers reading to children). Intermediaries such as practitioners or parents might be involved.

The Framework maps outcomes, which are the "changes, benefits, learning or other effects that result from what a project or organisation does ... They may include changes in users' knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviour" (Creating your theory of change: NPC's practical guide, NPC, 2014).

The outcomes in the Framework are expressed in the positive, because there is existing evidence that reading can cause a positive impact in these areas. When evaluating activities you should be aware of negative changes as well. Not every reading activity will lead to every outcome - you need to review your activity against the Framework, selecting the relevant outcomes and finding out if a change results from your activity.

Is the Toolkit focused on adults or children?

The Outcomes Framework has been developed from current evidence about the impact of reading for pleasure and empowerment on adults, parents/carers and children and young people, and for both confident and emerging readers. However, there is not enough evidence to be sure if different outcomes result for different groups, or from different types of reading.

The evidence section shows where the existing evidence comes from, and where there are gaps in evidence. Over time, we hope to increase the evidence base as the Framework is used across the reading sector.

The Toolkit includes questions that can be used with adults, parents & carers and children / young people. You will need to select questions that are appropriate for your target audience and icons have been included to help you do this. You may also want to evaluate the impact of your activity on the practitioners or volunteers that deliver it, but that is beyond the scope of this Toolkit.

Credit: Justin Sutcliffe

How was it developed?

The Framework Toolkit is the product of a successful partnership project led by The Reading Agency in collaboration with organisations in the reading sector (see the Partners section for a list). The process has been supported by research and evaluation experts at OPM, BOP Consulting, Renaisi and TSIP.

Referencing the Toolkit

If you would like to reference the Toolkit, please use the following text: The Reading Agency et al (2016) Reading Outcomes Framework Toolkit, London: The Reading Agency.