Children like to read, but not for pleasure

21st March 2008 at 00:00
Fewer of England's primary pupils say they read for pleasure than those in almost any other developed nation.

And the numbers saying they read stories for pleasure have dropped by five percentage points in five years, to 33 per cent.

However, attitudes to reading are still broadly positive in this country - just less so than elsewhere.

These are the main findings of a study on attitudes to reading, which offers insights into England's recent mediocre performance in a major international testing survey.

The Progress in Reading Literacy Study (Pirls), which tested 10-year-olds in 45 countries and provinces in 2006, found England had slipped from third to 19th in the rankings.

Academics at the National Foundation for Educational Research have presented more detailed findings on pupils' attitudes, based on surveys for Pirls.

They found that in England, only one third of pupils said they read for pleasure every day, while 27 per cent said they never did so.

But reading is still popular. Three-quarters of children said they enjoyed it and only one-third believed it was boring.

The figures for reading every day are broadly unchanged since 2001, the year of the last Pirls study, in which England's good overall test performance was reported against a background of concern about English pupils' lack of enthusiasm.

In France, 51 per cent claimed to read daily in their spare time, with only 15 per cent never doing so. In Germany, the comparable figures were 53 per cent and 14 per cent.

The findings may be of concern to those trying to raise test scores in English primaries, as there appears to be a strong link between interest in reading and achievement.

Pupils saying they read for fun every day scored on average 575 points in the Pirls tests, compared with 537 for those who read once or twice a week, and 506 for those who say they never read for pleasure.

Liz Twist, principal research officer for the foundation, told a conference in London on pupil attitudes that this correlation could be found in almost every country.

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