Reading fiction ‘boosts learning by 10 months’

I have made many posts about the benefits of reading, from academic performance to mental health.  Now a new study from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) study has linked the frequency with which 15 year old read different types of reading matter to their Pisa reading scores.

Pisa testing is held every 3 years, with the 2018 results being released in early December 2019.  Australia is one of the 79 (in 2018) countries who has taken part in the testing, which covers mathematics, science and reading.

Taking the results of the 2015 Pisa testing, researchers at the UCL Institure of Education asked participants how often they read fiction books, non-fiction books, newspapers, magazines and comic books.  The researchers found that 15 year-olds who read newspapers, magazines, comics and non-fiction did not receive significantly higher Pisa scores for reading than 15 year-olds that don’t.  However, pupils who reported reading fiction almost every day scored approximately 26 points more in their reading tests than those who don’t read fiction.

This equates to approximately 10 months additional schooling, according to the OECD.

Researchers are still trying to work out why this is the case.  Initially they thought it could be because readers of fiction spend more time reading than readers of other types of reading materials.  However, further research showed that this is not the case.  When they controlled the amount of time students spent reading, the ‘fiction effect’ was just as strong.

The researchers also controlled other variables, such as gender, socioeconomic status and school type to rule out other factors that could influence the results.

So, whilst the reason for the effect is still being studied, the take home message is that reading fiction is a proven way to boost student academic achievement and students should be given the time, opportunity and encouragement to spend time reading fiction on a daily basis.

All the more reason to visit the school library and find a book to read!

[source:  “Reading fiction ‘boosts learning by 10 months’“, by Catherine Lough, 22 October 2019]

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