Scottish pupils improve at reading difficult books

But pupils in Scotland no longer have UK's joint-highest levels of reading comprehension, survey finds

Scottish pupils improve at reading difficult books

Scottish pupils climbed from the bottom ranking on reading more difficult books to take second place according to a UK-wide literacy survey.

However, in overall reading comprehension levels, Scotland slipped from the joint top spot with Northern Ireland in 2019 to joint second place with England.

The What Kids Are Reading Report 2020 found that pupils in Northern Ireland have the highest level of reading comprehension.


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Reading practice and assessment provider Renaissance UK, which collected the data, has called on teachers and librarians to ensure pupils are reading books of an appropriate level to challenge them and enable progress.

The study analysed the reading habits of 1.1 million pupils across the UK and Ireland, and found those who read daily are nearly three times as likely to read above their expected level compared to peers who read less frequently.

Children who read for pleasure had better comprehension and read more frequently.

Top authors and books

The survey also revealed the most popular books and authors among school pupils in the UK and Ireland, with JK Rowling once again taking the top seven places for primary school pupils with her Harry Potter series.

For most popular authors, Jeff Kinney, who wrote the Diary of A Wimpy Kid books, and David Walliams took first and second place respectively for both primary and secondary school children.

Roderick Hunt, author of The Magic Key series, came third for primary school pupils, while Roald Dahl took the third spot for the older children.

The University of Dundee's Professor Keith Topping, who wrote the report, said: "Reading for pleasure is a vital component to literacy success but it is also important to encourage pupils to read more often and to pick books of appropriate reading difficulty for their age.

"The great news is that pupils' favourite books tend to be of appropriate reading difficulty. It is important that teachers and librarians instil a love of reading in schools by encouraging lively classroom discussions with children about their favourite authors and titles.

"They should also be on hand to advise on books with appropriate challenge bespoke to the child's interests. Parents can also play a role by encouraging children to read at home on a daily basis."

Renaissance director of professional services James Bell said that "we have long advocated the need for daily reading time to help foster a love of reading, which is greatly aided when children are reading books of appropriate difficulty".

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