Why parents should read for pleasure.

It will surprise few of us that recent research has found a direct link between how often a child’s more reads for pleasure and their child’s performance in school reading and writing assessments (Inequality and the home learning environment: predictions about seven year-olds’ language and literacy (University of Warwick) Article published in the British Educational Research Journal, volume 38 number 5 pages 859-879).

What is perhaps surprising is that, given this fairly predictable correlation, little is done to encourage parents to read. Sporadic national campaigns are run, usually linked to a list of recommended books and these are briefly high profile in the media. But all too soon, the focus on reading dissolves and reading returns to its marginalized status. I can’t think of any other process where research could demonstrate such a clear and beneficial impact on pupil attainment, but there is still little concerted encouragement to parents to read, either for pleasure or the benefit of themselves and their children.

The National Literacy Trust and the Reading Association do their best to keep reading in the public eye, but against a backdrop of library closures and in the face of massive publicity for non-text based entertainment, this feels like too little.

The Rooted in Reading project is based around 13 different reading passports, all designed to promote reading for pleasure. Most of these are aimed at school pupils, from Reception right through to A level students. Two are specifically designed to encourage parents to share read with their children. Sharing Stories and Rhymes is aimed at the parents of pre-school age children and Reading Together at parents of primary school pupils. Both provide ideas on how to share books and come with a sheet of stickers that can be used when a book has been read and both the child and parent have noted their responses to it. For very young children this may be a scribble but over time it will become a drawing and then words and finally a written comment as the passport becomes a wonderful memento of precious time spent sharing books. All the passports are available from the on-line bookshop at http://www.nate.org.uk. At £16 for 50 copies they are a really economical way for nurseries, pre-schools and primary schools to demonstrate their commitment to reading and parental engagement and this is sure to go down well with Ofsted. More importantly, an early love of reading will be inculcated.

Rooted in Reading has gained a lot of attention in secondary schools but these two passports have the potential to have just as much impact and provide opportunities for joined up working across all age ranges. Indeed, the Reader’s Passport is widely used by adults to chart the details of their own reading journeys, perhaps linked to their reading for a Book Group. So the project has the potential to help promote reading for pleasure across the whole community. We know reading is beneficial – not just for those who do it but for their children too! This timely research reminds us of the importance of promoting this quiet, reflective but very powerful practice.



6 thoughts on “Why parents should read for pleasure.

  1. This is an exciting idea. Do you have any ideas for how this might be developed successfully as a whole school initiative for a large secondary school in an area of high social deprivation? I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get parents and carers more engaged with school life and I think part of this is about them seeing the value of reading as BOTH an academic tool and a way to enrich everyday life. Thinking about things like twilight book groups for parents and students…

    1. Thanks for your comment. There is now a set of 14 different Rooted in Reading passports which you can see in the bookshop at the NATE website. These are now being used in schools all over the country, including many that are in challenging inner city circumstances. In particular, Tower Hamlets School Library Service has taken the project on board in a big way and many of their schools use it.

      The Reader’s Passport can certainly be used with parents for the twilight reading groups you mention. You could also use the Community Passport at all events where parents are on site to get them reflecting on what they are reading and to raise the profile of reading for pleasure. Alongside this you could then also use several of the pupil passports to meet the needs of different age groups – perhaps the green KS2/3 passport in Y7, Passport Plus in Y8, the Personal Reading Diary in Y9 and the Award Passport in KS 4 and 5. For relevant groups of pupils, who are less enthusiastic about reading, you may want to consider the popular Challenge Passport.

      Hope this helps.

  2. I really like this idea. I have developed groups as part of a Family Literacy programme in the past so I know how powerful it can be to get families confidently talking and reading with their children even when they themselves are initially not confident to start.

    I will contact you re difficulties for very small groups when all orders are in 50s. This can be a big problem for small, isolated communities such as the ones I am currently working with.

    1. Thanks for your comment Kate. I am sure we can find a way round the pack size issue. Groups could get together for example or link up with a local nursery or primary school or library for example. If you let me know a postal address (DM on twitter?) I will post you some samples.

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