Reading for pleasure: scrutinising the evidence base – benefits, tensions and recommendations

Cremin, Teresa and Scholes, Laura (2024). Reading for pleasure: scrutinising the evidence base – benefits, tensions and recommendations. Language and Education (early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09500782.2024.2324948

Abstract

Compelling international evidence illustrates the potential of reading for pleasure for enhancing student reading achievement along with other learning and wellbeing outcomes. Yet profound challenges exist for nations seeking to encompass attention to students’ volitional reading. In this paper we critically review the growing research evidence in this area by drawing systematically on cognitive psychological studies of reading attainment and motivation, educational studies of classroom practice, and the work of literary scholars and medical professionals. We consider and critique the methodologies deployed and read between the lines, exposing contradictions and complexities across this interdisciplinary field before considering the demands of operationalising this agenda in education. Through a dual focus on England and Australia, where, exemplifying international trends, young people’s voluntary reading continues to decline, we examine difficulties and dilemmas which play out in policy and practice contexts. Our points of commonality and comparison surface key issues for consideration in countries working to reconcile the push and pull of performativity and reading for pleasure agendas in order to nurture children’s volitional reading. To conclude, we examine ways forward for research, policy and practice which deserve increased global attention, and offer future-focused recommendations to advance this significant social justice agenda.

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