Reading for pleasure helps inspire a love of literacy and boost student outcomes

Mandated ‘reading for pleasure’ programs for students would help boost their love of reading and improve results, according to ACU education expert Associate Professor Laura Scholes.

Associate Professor Scholes, of the Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education, said giving students time to simply read and develop their identity as readers was as vital to their learning as any other part of the curriculum.

“We need to have a reading for pleasure agenda in schools. There is value in developing children’s enjoyment long term because it correlates with their reading outcomes and all of their learning across the curriculum as they progress through schooling,” she said.

“Children will have more opportunities to engage with the books that they love and have a broader repertoire of experiences as learners.”

Associate Professor Scholes, who has just completed a comprehensive 3-year-study into boys’ underachievement in reading, said PISA data showed a decline in Australian students’ reading achievement had occurred alongside a drop in their enjoyment of reading between 2000-2018.

She said mandating reading for pleasure at a policy level, as they have done in the United Kingdom, would ensure teachers had the professional development and resources they needed to support their students to read regularly for enjoyment.

“There needs to be a whole-school agenda within a clear framework that can be followed, so children have the reading for pleasure experience seamlessly through the years,” she said. “It’s about self-directed reading and children developing volition and autonomy as readers.”

Associate Professor Scholes said schools needed to structure time in the day when teachers demonstrated their own love of reading, read aloud to students, and engaged in lessons to model reading for pleasure and how to choose good fit books and read them in a self-directed way.

Children also needed opportunities to talk about their personal reading, share their recommendations, and access high quality texts aligned with their interests, she said.

“We need to build a community of readers that involves teachers with high level knowledge of children’s literature, students, parents and the wider community,” she said. “We urgently need a balance in developing reading skills and the will to read.”

Associate Professor Scholes also called for more engaging reading materials for classrooms and suggested nearby schools share resources to ensure all children had access to quality literature.

Other key findings from the study include:

  • A direct link between those who enjoy and read frequently and higher reading outcomes.
  • The dispelling of the gender stereotype that boys do not like to read.
  • The discovery that boys do like fiction, contrary to the myth that boys prefer non-fiction.
  • Higher levels of enjoyment of non-fiction texts among girls than boys.
  • The need for more equitable reading resourcing in disadvantaged school communities.

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