New Report Confirms Benefits of Reading

Via the National Reading Campaign

Reading in Canadian Society Report Confirms Benefits of Reading for Pleasure

Choice, control, and social interaction key factors in instilling love of reading

A review of the literature on reading commissioned by the National Reading Campaign (NRC) becomes available today. The findings of the report, “Towards Sustaining and Encouraging Reading in Canadian Society,” confirm the many benefits – cognitive and cultural, personal and societal – of reading for pleasure, and the value of implementing a national reading campaign for Canada.

The report took into consideration hundreds of commentaries and studies from the close to 300,000 indexed on the subject of reading approach since 1966. It was commissioned specifically to look at reading for pleasure, reading and civic engagements, the benefits offered by reading, strategies that could be used to encourage reading, trends in the literature, and areas in need of further research.

“The research shows that choice, control, and the implementation of reading as a social activity are key to building a nation of those who love to read versus a nation of those who can read,” said the report’s author, Sharon Murphy, Associate Professor of Education at York University. “It also confirms the many long-term societal benefits associated with being a nation of avid readers, including increased civic engagement, empathy for others, and improved cognitive and academic development.”

“This report confirms that readers derive direct social benefits through social interaction linked to reading, which is a major part of the National Reading Campaign’s work,” said Rick Wilks, Vice-Chair of the National Reading Campaign. “It confirms our understanding of the individual and societal importance of reading, but perhaps more importantly, it confirms that getting people talking about their reading is the best way of encouraging others to read.”

Key findings of the report include:

➢ Reading is associated with cultivating the disposition for civic participation at large;

➢ “Foreign-born Canadians engage somewhat more in reading newspapers and election coverage in newspapers than non-foreign-born Canadians” (p.10);

➢ Later-life avid readers were likely read to at an earlier age than non-avid readers, demonstrating the importance of instilling a joy of reading in school-age children;

➢ Engagement with literature enhances professional efforts (“good readers make good doctors”);

➢ Our definitions of “pleasure reading” and “reading” need to be more broad; there are many deep and comprehensive reading experiences beyond engagement with fiction;

➢ Readers see Internet use as quite different than engaging with a book, even when the online activity involves extended periods of reading;

➢ “Even though reading is typically thought of as a solitary activity, reading and being a member of a group that reads a particular author or collection of books has direct social benefits through social interaction”; (p.17)

➢ Teens in particular identify the importance of working in groups as a key component to fostering literacy;

➢ Evidence supports the idea that giving students control over choosing what they read encourages them to read more;

➢ Because of academic obligation, even students who report that they enjoy reading frequently don’t read texts other than those assigned to them.

The findings of “Towards Sustaining and Encouraging Reading in Canadian Society” support the need to ensure that pleasure and leisure become an integral part of the reading experience. The report notes that reading for pleasure leads to greater self-understanding, the fostering of social relations, greater well-being, improved cognitive and academic development, and a higher disposition to participate in civic society.

The National Reading Campaign will use “Towards Sustaining and Encouraging Reading in Canadian Society” to identify areas in need of further research. The Research Committee of the NRC is developing project proposals in the following area: who reads and what do they read in Canada? Specifically, reading habits of boys and teen and adult males; reading in multicultural communities; and the way schools encourage or discourage reading for pleasure.

Click here to download a copy of the report.

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