The impact of dedicated daily reading at school on students’ literacy and motivation is the focus of a new School Based Research Project supported by the Association of Independent Schools NSW (AISNSW).
AISNSW’s School Based Research Project initiative, now in its sixth year, has so far supported 25 schools to undertake quality research to improve student learning.
In Sydney’s north, Queenwood, a non-selective K–12 girls’ school, has embarked on a two year research project to investigate whether Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) encourages a stronger reading culture among students.
“This was introduced after staff from the school’s library and English Department noticed fewer girls were reading fiction as they entered upper primary school and high school,” said AISNSW Chief Executive Dr Geoff Newcombe AM.
“The results of a pilot study were encouraging enough for Queenwood to adjust next year’s school timetable to introduce 20 minutes of daily reading from Kindergarten to Year 12.”
Queenwood Principal Elizabeth Stone said a focus on literacy since 2015 identified a decline in regular reading from upper primary that accelerated through high school and beyond.
“We were startled to find that 28 per cent of Year 7 and 9 students were reading for pleasure less than once a week and that 10 per cent were not currently reading books at all,” Ms Stone said.
“Most of these were from the Year 9 cohort, and in fact this was entirely in line with research findings that reading for pleasure decreases as students get older. The data from Australia and elsewhere tells us that many teenagers simply do not read beyond their assigned English texts.”
She also pointed to recent evidence that indicated reading patterns had changed due to the impact of digital devices; with more readers who often skim rather than engage deeply with a text.
Ms Stone added that the school also has more students requiring additional learning support to address literacy needs.
Other research, she said, also identifies the problem of ‘orphaned responsibility’ for reading, where neither parents nor schools take active steps to promote leisure reading.
“This is not just nostalgia; there is a large bank of compelling evidence to show that frequent leisure reading improves literacy, accelerates learning in all areas and enhances a range of important social and emotional skills,” explains Ms Stone.
“Reading for pleasure improves general wellbeing – as students experience quiet contemplation – and increases academic engagement because they can pursue their own areas of interest when reading.”
Ms Stone noted that the OECD has reported that reading enjoyment was more important for a child’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status.
She said she hoped the study would contribute to understandings of how to effectively deliver a model of regular reading that improves students’ literacy skills and their motivation to read for pleasure.
This research complements the existing body of evidence generated by previous AISNSW School Based Research Projects and aims to support educators as they work to improve student learning outcomes.