Research points to certain factors that increase the likelihood of creating engaged readers.
Choice relates to motivation
Choice, interest and motivation are highly related. Surveys internationally suggest most children are more likely to read for pleasure if they can choose their own books (Gambrell, 1996, as cited in Clark & Rumbold, 2006 ). But, as Clark & Rumbold, 2006, state 'To affect reading behaviour they must subsequently choose to read that book over any other available activity'.
Access to books is essential
Lack of availability of high-interest reading material is cited by students as one of the reasons they don’t read for enjoyment. Having books in the home, or books of their own has a major impact.
Children with books of their own read more, and more frequently. Library membership is positively co-related with reading frequency. Students who are members of a library are twice as likely to read at home. Non-library users are 3 times more likely to only read at school, or to state they can’t find a book to read.
Impact of reading frequency and duration
There is a positive relationship between attitude to reading, reading attainment and reading frequency. In a survey of 17,000 students (Clark & Douglas, 2011) students who were reading above their expected age read more than those reading below their expected age. 1/10 of students who stated they read rarely or never scored above their age, as compared with 1/3 of students who stated they read daily.
Anderson, Wilson and Fielding (1988) found that the amount of time spent in independent reading was the best predictor of the amount of gain made in reading achievement between the ages of 8 and 11.
Relationships and role models, at school and at home
Reading for pleasure at school is strongly influenced by relationships between teachers and children, and children and families (Cremin et al, 2000 as cited by Clark & Rumbold, 2006). Parents are influential in developing early reading for enjoyment, and if books are valued from a young age, this is likely to continue.
"Research has repeatedly shown that parental involvement in their child’s literacy practices is a more powerful force than family background and variables such as social class, family size, and level of parental education."
— National Literacy Trust, Reading For Pleasure Executive Summary, Nov, 2006
We need to take a collective and collaborative approach across school and community.
"In order to reap the benefits that reading for pleasure can bring, schools need to implement a reading programme that will make reading an experience that is actively sought out by children."
— Reading for pleasure, what we know works, Centre for Literacy in Primary Education.
In 2012, in recognition of the importance of reading for pleasure in developing literacy, Ofsted in the UK implemented the requirement for schools to 'develop policies to promote reading for enjoyment'. Any school that wishes to be judged outstanding needs to demonstrate strategies that encourage 'reading widely and often across all subjects'.
Reading for pleasure: A research overview — National Literacy Trust
Reading for pleasure, what we know works (pdf, 898KB) — Centre for Literacy in Primary Education.
National Library workshop findings
In 2018, National Library Services to Schools held a workshop to explore the reading interests and reading lives of boys in years 6–9 from 5 Auckland schools.
The workshop found it was important not to make assumptions about boys' reading interests. Our workshop also mirrored research that highlights the importance of giving students:
- choice in what they read
- access to a diverse and attractive array of reading material, and
- access to knowledgeable and passionate reading role models.
Boys and reading workshop report (pdf, 758KB)