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Children: Reading

Question for Department for Education

UIN 35825, tabled on 19 July 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent estimate his Department has made on the number of children who read for recreation on a daily basis.

Answered on

23 July 2021

The Government is committed to continuing to raise literacy standards – ensuring all children, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, can read fluently and with understanding. One of the overarching aims of the National Curriculum is to ensure that all pupils develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information.

Understanding the impact of the COVID-19 disruption on the attainment and progress of all students is a key research priority for the Government, and we have commissioned an independent research and assessment agency to provide a baseline assessment of catch-up needs for pupils in schools in England and will monitor progress over the course of the year. The research will be based on existing assessments and help us target support across the system. The Department’s research on lost education has produced interim findings based on reading and maths assessments taken in the autumn and spring terms of the 2020/21 academic year. Interim findings show that between March 2020 and Spring 2021, pupils on average made more progress than expected in periods where they were in the classroom, but less progress than expected when there were restrictions on in-person teaching. The Department is committed to publishing its full findings by October 2021.

COVID-19 Reading Habits[1]

The July 2020 National Literacy Trust (NLT) report into ‘Children and young people’s reading in 2020 before and during the COVID-19 lockdown’ reviewed reading practices of 4,141 pupils between May and early June 2020. Compared to the NLT’s pre-lockdown findings, nearly 17% more of children surveyed reported they are enjoying reading.

This report found that the lockdown provided many children ‘the opportunity to discover… themselves as readers’, and that this was due to children having more time available to read and an increase in online access to stories. Reading was also important for mental health and wellbeing, with 3 in 5 children reporting that reading helps ‘make them feel better’. However, a lack of a suitable reading environment in the home and reduced support from schools has negatively impacted some children’s ability to read, and their motivation to read for enjoyment.

Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) data from 2016 has also reviewed the number of primary aged pupils in England who enjoy reading:

  • 2016 PIRLS data for England showed that 83% of pupils liked reading a lot or somewhat compared to 17% of those who did not like reading.
  • In addition, the 2016 PIRLS data demonstrated that 53% of England’s pupils report very high confidence in reading. This is above the international median of 45%.

PIRLS is an assessment of the reading abilities of primary aged pupils across the world. The results of the next study, PIRLS 2021, will be published in late 2022.

[1] https://cdn.literacytrust.org.uk/media/documents/National_Literacy_Trust_-_Reading_practices_under_lockdown_report_-_FINAL.pdf.

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