Reading for pleasure: Recent research insights

Cremin, Teresa (2023). Reading for pleasure: Recent research insights. School Libraries in View (SLIV)(47) pp. 6–12.



Reading for pleasure, a term more commonly used in England than elsewhere, is essentially volitional, choice-led reading of any kind of text. Often described as ‘recreational’ or ‘free voluntary reading’, it is undertaken for the personal satisfaction of the reader in their own time and has been positioned as every child’s right (International Literacy Association, 2018).

Interest in such self-directed reading - reading for pleasure - has grown in recent years. Whilst librarians have always recognised the value of choice-led reading, nowadays we find policy makers, researchers, literacy organisations and educators all turning their attention to young people’s desire to read. This is partly due to an international decline in the number of young people who are choosing to read in their own time (e.g., International Literacy Association, 20181; McGrane et al., 2017), and partly in response to research evidence which reveals that volitional reading is associated with greater engagement with learning and stronger academic outcomes (Mullis et al., 2017 ; OECD, 2019 ; Sullivan and Brown, 2015). Increasingly this is also acknowledged as a matter of social justice, with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stating that ‘being a frequent reader is more of an advantage than having well educated parents and that finding ways to engage students in reading may be one of the most effective ways to leverage social change’ (OECD Publishing, 2002, p. 3). Recently the OECD (2021) affirmed that engagement in reading, framed by a desire to read for pleasure can mediate socio-economic status and may help address endemic inequalities.

This article offers a summary of some recent research evidence in this area in order to widen knowledge and understanding and enable informed conversations about timetabling and budgets between librarians and senior management. In such discussions, I recommend highlighting societal concerns about the decline in young people’s recreational reading, and through the use of attitude surveys, indicating any school based challenges in this regard, as well as drawing attention to the associated benefits of being a childhood reader.

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