Transforming reading attitudes

Some children become known as ‘non-readers’ – either by themselves or others – but this labelling can quickly turn into a cycle of negativity around reading, affecting their attitudes and behaviours in the very long term. We wanted to see if there’s a way to break this cycle. In 2019, we ran a pilot study with 440 pupils across 6 primary and 5 secondary schools, offers pupils an inclusive, creative experience designed to help pupils think differently about reading. It required no assessment, no follow-up activities and no marking for teachers. At the end of the programme, each participating pupil chooses a free new book to keep.

  • The programme consists of three days of skilled storyteller-led workshops over a six-week period, three to four workshops took place on each of the three days with each workshop involving up to 10 pupils selected by the participating school.
  • The same pupils attended each of the three workshops.
  • The programme targets Years 5-6 or Years 7-8 pupils who are either reluctant readers or read below the level expected for their age. It also includes a few pupils who enjoy reading so that they can inspire the others.
  • The focus is on children receiving free school meals (FSM) and pupil premium (PP).

Key findings

  • 79.7% pupils who took part now want to read more books, 76.9% said that they now feel excited about reading and 71.4% also now felt better at writing their own stories
  • 53.1% said they now enjoy listening to stories while 36.9% feel inspired to tell more stories
  • 62.7% believe that Stories in Schools would inspire other pupils to read more

Comparisons with peers who hadn’t taken part showed that:

  • Pupils taking part improved their levels of reading enjoyment slightly with levels of enjoyment remaining stable until the end of the academic year whereas levels of reading enjoyment declined over the same time period for their peers who didn’t take part in the programme.
  • There is some evidence that young people aged 11 to 14 benefited the most with the level enjoying reading increasing by almost 10% while their non-participating peers decreased by 7.4% with their enjoyment of reading.
  • Fewer pupils who took part in Stories for Schools read daily compared to their peers who didn’t take part (27.8% vs 31%). While the daily reading levels of their peers declined over the course of the year (25.1%), levels for pupils who took part remained stable (26.5%).
  • More children and young people who didn’t enjoy reading said they read daily at the end of the programme compared to their peers.
  • Teachers observed changes with 87.5% seeing an increase in participating pupils’ reading motivation while 37.5% felt pupils enjoyed reading more and were more confident writers.
  • All the teachers agreed that Stories in Schools had demonstrated how this programme could engage reluctant readers and almost all believed the workshops had supported literacy.

“These findings are particularly interesting as research from the National Literacy Trust has repeatedly shown that reading enjoyment and reading frequency decline in the transition between primary and secondary schools. While we saw a similar dip in this evaluation study, these findings also indicate that this programme might help buffer the decline normally seen in this age group.”

National Literacy Trust

There was also a particular benefit to reluctant readers who were:

  • More likely to read daily at the end of the programme than their fellow reluctant readers in the comparison group
  • More likely to read for at least 10 minutes compared to their peers in the comparison group

The National Literacy Trust concluded:
“…these findings indicate that… the programme provided had a positive and lasting impact on participating pupils’ literacy.”

But we actually think it might be better summed up by one of the 10 year old participants:

“This is my book now, I’m over the moon with mine and I’m going to read it in detention.”

10-year old boy participating in Read for Good’s stories in schools

To read the full National Literacy Trust evaluation, click here.

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