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Reading for pleasure

Brought to you by Jenny Holder

Reading has always been at the heart of the National Curriculum, but recently schools have begun to focus more on the idea of reading for pleasure.

There is an increasing amount of research available that demonstrates the impact that reading for pleasure has on both a child’s educational and personal development. Studies have shown that children who read widely in their own time are more likely to attain more highly than their peers who don’t enjoy reading and that reading for pleasure is one of the effective factors involved in social mobility. Research has also shown that reading for pleasure can lead to a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression for both children and adults.

Little boy aged 6 is reading book in bed before going to sleep. The book is very interesting and the boy is quite lost in it.

The difficult part of getting pupils to read for pleasure is all bundled up in that final word – pleasure. We can’t force them to enjoy reading. Instead, schools need to seek opportunities that show reading to be an entertaining and pleasurable way to choose to spend time. Make time within each day to share a story together – to collectively take time out from the pressures of the timetable and curriculum and lose yourselves in narrative. Allow opportunities for both formal and informal discussion of reading preferences and experiences by both planning in opportunities to share book recommendations and simply encouraging these conversations when they naturally occur. Embed high quality books (either full texts or extracts) throughout the curriculum and then display these texts for pupils to pick up for their own private reading. Whether you choose to have a reading corner or not, make books ever present within your classroom through topic displays, book boxes, personal recommendations etc.

For me, the most important factor in encouraging reading for pleasure is choice. Provide plenty of opportunity to browse and peruse a range of reading materials, discuss their preferences and personal interests, offer recommendations and then ultimately let them make the final decision. What if you don’t think much of their choice? Keep quiet! Dismissing a child’s opinion and personal taste is one key way to put them off reading for life. As a teenager, I went through a Sweet Valley High phase. I read every single story about Jessica and Elizabeth that I possibly could. Did this period of reading exclusively about two beautiful blonde Californian twins halt my progress in reading in any way? No. If anything, it fuelled my passion for reading and led me to eventually move on to different authors and genres. Reading is reading- it doesn’t matter whether it’s classic literature, comics, non-fiction, picture books or newspapers. If children are choosing to read, no matter what they are reading, job’s a good ’un.

Happy female elementary age students in school uniforms are sitting at a desk in the school library and reading a book together. A Filipino elementary age girl sits with an African American classmate and reads a book together in the school library.

My Top 5 Reading for Pleasure Suggestions for Reluctant Readers:

– Fortunately The Milk- Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

– Mad About Monkeys- Owen Davey

– Love That Dog- Sharon Creech

– Rollergirl- Victoria Jamieson

– Booked- Kwame Alexander

About the author

Jenny Holder has worked as a primary school teacher for 13 years.  She is currently the Reading Coordinator at Liverpool Learning Partnership, a role which sees her working with schools across Liverpool to fulfill the aim that all children and young people in the city have.

Follow her on Twitter: @JennyHolderLiv