Pupils ‘read more difficult books during school closures’

Report analysed the reading habits of more than 1.1 million pupils across the UK and Ireland.

Pupils ‘read more difficult books during school closures’ iStock

Children in Scotland read longer and more challenging books during school closures in the past year, a report has found.

Experts said having more time to read allowed pupils to “immerse themselves in literature”, as survey results showed more children were reading for pleasure and deriving more enjoyment from books.

The findings are contained in the annual “What Kids are Reading” report by learning group Renaissance.

It analysed the reading habits of more than 1.1 million pupils across the UK and Ireland, including 46,722 Scottish youngsters.

It found Scots pupils in primary one were reading a larger variety of books than their English counterparts, and Scottish primary twos in particular were reading books intended for children almost two years older.

Overall, primary school children developed their reading levels further than secondary school pupils, it adds.

The report also showed that despite a slump at the beginning of 2020, during school closures in the first lockdown starting in March last year, more than half (56%) of pupils said they enjoyed reading very much (24%) or quite a lot (32%).

Almost seven in 10 said they had read more fiction during lockdown, with adventure stories by far the most popular genre, it adds.

Also contained in the report is a survey by the National Literacy Trust of more than 4,100 pupils across the UK.

Three in five said reading had made them feel better during lockdown, while almost one third said it had helped them when they felt sad because they could not see friends or family.

Professor Keith Topping, who specialises in education at the University of Dundee, welcomed the findings.

He said: “During the lockdown overall, pupils were tending to read longer books of greater difficulty and with greater comprehension. Having more time to read gave children the chance to immerse themselves in literature and schools should encourage more reading time now that they are open again.

“It is great to see that primary age children are reading more difficult books and this should be reflected at secondary school age where book difficulty this year plateaued.

“Secondary schools need to encourage their pupils to attack more difficult books.”

During the first lockdown, One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus and Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban by JK Rowling were the most favoured books by secondary and primary school pupils respectively.

According to National Literacy Trust data, nearly half of pupils (46%) said they had read new books, while one in seven said they had opened a book they had not encountered before.

Renaissance director John Moore said: “Lockdown has been difficult for many children, especially when schools were closed and they could not access school libraries or see their friends.

“Knowing that reading really helped younger children to feel better throughout the pandemic is very encouraging. It’s promising to see that when pupils had a choice of books to hand, many chose a more challenging book, and one that perhaps allows for more escapism.”

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