Scotland's ranking in reading literacy has slipped in international terms - not because its performance has deteriorated, but because other countries have improved significantly.
An international study of nine and 10-year-olds - the five-yearly Progress In Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) - showed that, in 2006, 19 out of 45 countries or regions scored higher than Scotland; in 2001, Scotland came 13th out of 35.
The report, published on Wednesday by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, also showed that Scottish pupils' attitudes towards reading and perceptions of their reading ability had worsened in comparison with the 2001 results.
Maureen Watt, Minister for Schools and Skills, said she was pleased the study showed the most able Scottish pupils ranking amongst the highest achievers in the international study. "There is much to do to close the gap between the best and worst performers in Scotland, which has remained persistently large," she said. "The report also shows what this Government already knows - that pupils in areas of deprivation don't do as well."
Ms Watt added that, through A Curriculum for Excellence, the Scottish Government would soon be issuing guidance which placed literacy at the heart of all teaching, not just English teaching.
Scotland's average score for reading in 2001 was 528 - one point higher than its score in 2006. The Russian Federation also scored 528 in 2001 but has risen by 37 points to 565, the biggest improvement of all participating countries, putting it at the top of the international table.
Just below Russia are Hong Kong, the province of Alberta in Canada, Singapore, British Columbia in Canada, Luxembourg, and Ontario in Canada. England is seven places above Scotland, with a score of 539, a drop of 13 points from the previous measurement.
Seamus Hegarty, chair of the IEA, said PIRLS was important because it identified which school systems were equipping pupils with good reading skills and which were not.