Reading in Primary Schools: Guide

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Reading for Pleasure

‘Reading for pleasure’, ‘reading for enjoyment’ are often used interchangeably. The National Literacy Trust’s definition is, “reading that we do of our own free will, anticipating the satisfaction that we will get from the act of reading. It also refers to reading that having begun at someone else’s request we continue because we are interested in it” (Clark & Rumbold, National Literacy Trust, 2006).

Young people in England continue to read less independently and find less pleasure in reading than many of their peers in other countries (Cremin et al., 2009). Studies have shown that boys enjoy reading less than girls. 58% of girls enjoy reading either very much or quite a lot in comparison to 43% of boys. Nearly twice as many boys than girls agreed with the statement that reading is boring and that reading is hard and were more likely to say that they did not read outside the classroom and could not find anything that interests them. Boys are also less likely to say that they have access to a computer, magazines, newspapers, blogs or books compared with girls. Sixty-seven percent of boys say they have books of their own at home as opposed to 79% of girls. Girls were also more likely to rate themselves as better readers (Clark & Douglas, 2011).

There are strong links between reading frequency and future academic attainment, evidence suggests that reading for pleasure appears to be more significant for reading attainment than reading to improve reading skills and achieve results (Schiefele et al., 2012). The importance of reading for pleasure is recognised by the OECD which found it to be a predictor of future economic success (Kirsch et al., 2002). Children who read for pleasure have enhanced levels of text comprehension, an increased knowledge of grammar and show improvement in their writing. They  have more positive attitudes towards reading than their peers (Clark & Rumbold, 2006). Clark and DeZoya (2011) found a significant positive relationship between enjoyment and attainment indicating that pupils who read more are also better readers. Although they made no inference about causality, therefore higher attainment may lead to more enjoyment of reading or greater enjoyment may lead to higher attainment. Young people who enjoy reading very much are nearly five times as likely to read above the expected level for their age compared with young people who do not enjoy reading at all (Clark, 2012).

The advantages of reading for pleasure go beyond academic achievement. It is an activity that has emotional and social consequences (Clark & Rumbold, 2006). Other benefits include an increased breadth of vocabulary, pleasure in reading in later life, a better understanding of other cultures, better general knowledge and even ‘a greater insight into human nature. (NLT, 2006).

Research into reading shows that developing positive attitudes towards reading can also play a key role in children’s development. It indicates that pleasure reading may have a greater influence on a child’s overall academic performance than their socio-economic background (Pearson, 2015) Kidd and Castano (2013) suggested that pleasure reading deepened empathy.

Types of reading

Text messages, magazines, websites and emails are the most common reading choices of young people and fiction is read outside of class by over two-fifths of young people. Twist et al., (2007) report a very slight increase from 2001 in the proportion of children in England who claim to be reading comics/comic books and newspapers at least once or twice a week. There is mixed evidence on whether primary or secondary children read a greater variety of materials, while more primary than secondary ‘readers’ reported reading poetry outside of school.

Clark and Douglas (2011) report that young people who read below the expected level for their age were the least likely to read a variety of materials outside of class and found young people who read above the expected level for their age read more of the traditional forms of reading, such as fiction, non-fiction, poems and plays.

Reasons children read

Reading for pleasure is not always cited as the key reason for children reading. There are a few studies that have explored the issue of why children read, which have revealed comparable results. There are also skills-based reasons, reasons to do with learning and understanding and emotional reasons.

Strategies promoting reading for pleasure


Incentives and rewards

Parents and the home environment

The importance of resources

Using libraries

Reading environments, read aloud programmes, book talk and book recommendations and the provision of quality time for independent reading.

Further resources

 See CLPE (2018) READING FOR PLEASURE What we know works. (2018) Centre for Literacy in Primary Education  has 10 strategies

1.Developing an ethos and an environment that excites, enthuses, inspires and values 2. High quality texts with depth and interest in story, character, illustration, vocabulary, structure and subject matter 3. A read aloud programme 4. Teachers who are knowledgeable about children’s literature 5. Creating a community of readers with opportunities to share responses and opinions 6. Planning for talking about books and stories, providing structures within which to do this 7. Understanding the importance of illustration in reading both in terms of creating a text and responding to a text 8. Using drama and role-play to help children to understand and access texts 9. Working with authors and author/illustrators to understand the process of creating books 10. Using literature beyond the literacy lesson – cross-curricular planning with quality literature as the starting point.

The Teachers as Readers (TaRs) research revealed that a robust reading for pleasure pedagogy encompassed four specific practices: reading aloud, informal booktalk and recommendations and independent reading time within a highly social reading environment. Success was dependent upon teachers’ knowledge of children’s literature, their readers and the nature of reading. When responsively combined these practices positively influenced children’s attitudes and attainment.   This Reading for Pleasure (RfP) pedagogy enables teachers to:

Take responsibility for and plan to develop children’s RfP alongside and as complementary to reading instruction

  • Effectively use their wider knowledge of children’s literature and other texts to enrich children’s experience and pleasure in reading
  • Let children control more of their own reading and exercise their rights as readers
  • Make time and space for children to explore texts in greater depth, share favourites and talk spontaneously about their reading
  • Build reciprocal and interactive communities of readers.



See The Egmont Reading for Pleasure Teachers Awards



Clark, C. &  Douglas, J. (2011) Young People’s Reading and Writing An in-depth study focusing on enjoyment, behaviour, attitudes and attainment. London: National Literacy Trust.

Clark, C. & DeZoya, S. (2011). Mapping the interrelationships of reading enjoyment, attitudes, behaviour and attainment: An exploratory investigation. London: National Literacy Trust

Clark, C. & Rumbold, K. (2006). Reading for Pleasure a research overview. The National Literacy Trust.

Clark, C. (2012). Children’s and Young People’s Reading Today: Findings from the 2011 National Literacy Trust’s annual survey. London: National Literacy Trust

Cremin, T., Mottram, M., Collins, F., Powell, S. & Safford, K. (2009). Teachers as Readers: Building Communities of Readers 2007-08 Executive Summary. The United Kingdom Literacy Association.

Kidd, D.C., & Castano, E. (2013). Reading literacy fiction improves theory of mind. Science, 342(6156), 377-380.

Kirsch et al., (2002)  Reading for Change: performance and engagement across countries, results from PISA 2000. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

National Literacy Trust (2006) Reading for Pleasure: A research overview. NLT.

Pearson UK. (2015). Why is reading so important?

Schiefele, U., Shaffner, E., Moller, J. & Wigfield, A. (2012). Dimensions of Reading Motivation and Their Relation to Reading Behavior and Competence. Reading Research Quarterly, 47(4), pp, 427-463.

Twist, L., Schagan, I. &  Hogson, C. (2007). Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS): Reader and Reading National Report for England. London: NFER and DCSF.