Laura Venning, our Impact and Evaluation Research Manager, on why it's important to make reading an everyday part of our lives.
We often see stories in the press about declining reading frequency and concerns that parents are not reading to their children often enough. But why does it matter? At The Reading Agency we work to inspire more people to read more because we believe that everything changes when we read - but just what do we mean by this?
There is strong evidence linking reading for pleasure and educational outcomes. We know that academic attainment is of vital importance, but the benefits of reading for pleasure go beyond this and stretch throughout a person's life. Today we are publishing an independent literature review that highlights the wider outcomes of reading for pleasure and empowerment, conducted for us by BOP Consulting and generously funded by the Peter Sowerby Foundation.
Findings of the report
The research finds that reading for pleasure can result in increased empathy, improved relationships with others, reductions in the symptoms of depression and dementia, and improved wellbeing.
The relationship between reading for pleasure and wellbeing is particularly interesting, with evidence showing a correlation between reading for pleasure regularly and lower levels of stress and depression. Reading also seems to reduce the risk of dementia, with frequent readers having lower incidence of dementia in later life.
In addition to the health benefits, reading for pleasure has social benefits and can improve our sense of connectedness to the wider community. Reading increases our understanding of our own identity, improves empathy and gives us an insight into the world view of others.
Reading needs to be an everyday part of our lives
Our research report specifically shows that the benefits of reading are more likely to be felt when reading takes place through free choice. The outcomes of reading will occur more often and more strongly if reading is enjoyable in the first instance. This is why the 'for pleasure' element of reading for pleasure is so important.
Reading is not just something that children should do in school; it needs to be an everyday part of our lives, something we choose to do at all ages. This is why The Reading Agency runs programmes to encourage reading for all age groups; we are there for people throughout their reading journey.
How we'll use the report
The literature review about the outcomes of reading for pleasure and empowerment is the first stage in a project to develop an outcomes framework for the reading sector. The outcomes framework will map the wider outcomes of reading and provide a framework to help us measure the impact of the work that we and many other organisations do to encourage reading. The next step is to build on the fascinating results of this literature review with further consultation to build an outcomes framework for the reading sector as a whole.
This is a collaborative project funded by the Peter Sowerby Foundation and involving Arts Council England, Association of Senior Children's and Education Librarians, Book Trust, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, Education Endowment Foundation, National Literacy Trust, Publishers Association, Scottish Library and Information Council, Society of Authors and the Society of Chief Librarians.
Find out more about the literature review
Reading Well Books on Prescription provides helpful reading for people with common mental health conditions or dementia, or their carers, through public libraries. Find out more