Research Digest: December

Published on: 3 Rhagfyr 2014 Author: The BookTrust Research Team

Research Digest

Our round-up of reading-related research.

Reading for pleasure in childhood has big vocabulary benefits later in life

This research from the Institute of Education looks at how vocabulary scores change between ages 16 to 42. The findings show that the frequency of reading for pleasure is positively linked with vocabulary scores, and what people read matters just as much as how often they read.

Those who regularly read for pleasure at age 10 scored 67% in the vocabulary test at age 42, whereas those who didn't read regularly aged 10 scored 52%. Although regular readers tended to have higher vocabulary scores at age 10 and 16, and tended to come from more advantaged socio-economic backgrounds, when early social background and childhood vocabulary scores were controlled for - regular childhood readers (measured at age 10 and age 16) were still 9 percentage points ahead at age 42. The researchers speculate that regular childhood readers are likely to have picked up 'good reading habits' which continued into adulthood.

The type of reading material also made a difference: the greatest gains in vocabulary scores were seen in those who read 'highbrow' fiction.

The Institute of Education conducted statistical analysis on the 1970s Birth Cohort Study, a nationally representative group of people born in 1970. They used the vocabulary test scores of more than 9,400 British individuals at the ages of 10, 16 and 42.

From: Sullivan and Brown, 2014. Vocabulary from adolescence to middle-age, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, Working Paper 2014/7


Reading maps show geographical inequality in children's reading level amongst low-income families

The Read On Get On coalition was launched earlier this year in response to the UK's reading challenge, and aims to get all children reading well at the age of 11, by 2025.

The latest report comprehensively maps out the areas in England where children from low-income families struggle with reading the most. It shows that whilst no area has all children reading at the required standard, some 'hotspots' face bigger challenges.

In terms of region, the concentrations of reading disadvantage are the South East (excluding London) and East of England, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber. The maps also show the parliamentary constituencies in the top 25% for children from low income backgrounds reading well at 11 (mostly London and other big cities), and the bottom 25% (mostly towns and country areas including market towns and seaside towns).

The purpose of the report is to raise awareness of the areas with the most challenging task, improve understanding so that local areas can take action, and highlight the potential for collaborative learning - different areas can learn from each other, particularly within a 'family of schools' - that is schools in areas that share similar circumstances.

The researchers used data from school tests and focussed on children eligible for free school meals which is used as a proxy for 'low income' background. This group are statistically more likely to be behind in reading compared with peers from higher income backgrounds and make up a fifth of students.

From: Warren, 2014. Reading England's Future: Mapping how well the poorest children read, Read On Get On, 2014


Repeated positive outcomes for the Accelerated Reading tool

The Accelerated Reader is a tool for monitoring and managing independent reading practice. It tests a child's reading level using a quiz, then provides a list of appropriate books at and slightly above that level.

The report supports findings from 2012 that a number of 'soft' positive outcomes, such as reading enjoyment and attitudes to reading, were associated with using the Accelerated Reader. The research found that children and young people who use the Accelerated Reader tool are more likely to enjoy reading, read more often, think more positively about reading and see a link between reading and their success, than peers who did not use the tool.

The National Literacy Trust were commissioned to evaluate the tool by Renaissance Learning who produce the Accelerated Reader tool. They used data from their annual survey to conduct the analysis.

From: Clark, 2014. Accelerated Reader and Young People's Reading in 2013, National Literacy Trust, 2014

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