ImpactEd in collaboration with #BeeWell: Reflecting on the relationship between reading and wellbeing

Our Impact in Practice research series aims to share real-time data on pupil learning and wellbeing in England. At ImpactEd, as we look ahead to our third instalment of the series, we wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on some of the findings of our research over the past year.

Reading Well, our Spring 2022 Impact in Practice report, looked at the relationship between reading behaviours and wellbeing in young people in collaboration with the National Literacy Trust, Innovations for Learning UK and Place2Be.

We found that pupils who scored the highest in confidence in reading had wellbeing scores 31.8% higher and anxiety scores 20.8% lower than their peers who scored the lowest in this measure. A similar pattern was observed for enjoyment of reading, as pupils who enjoyed reading very much saw wellbeing levels 6.8% higher than those who reported that they didn’t enjoy reading at all.

Both relationships were found to be statistically significant, though confidence in reading was the strongest driver of pupil wellbeing out of all measures used in our research. This suggests that reading may benefit young people mentally as well as academically and vocationally.

The current economic landscape emphasises how important this is. A recent news article cites that the number of children living in England aged between five and eight who do not own a book of their own is as its highest point since 2019. A key driver behind this increase was found to be the rising cost of living, with parents reporting that they have little disposable income to spend on books.

Following the release of our report, we have since explored the correlation between reading and wellbeing with other partners. #BeeWell, a programme co-developed by young people, aims to annually survey the wellbeing of pupils in secondary schools across Greater Manchester and support communities in prioritising the mental wellbeing of their young people. #BeeWell started its three year programme in Autumn 2021, hearing the views of roughly 38,000 young people across over 160 secondary schools. #BeeWell have kindly shared the key findings from this first year’s survey with us.

In their research, #BeeWell correlated reading frequency and mental wellbeing scores whilst controlling for other factors that may influence these variables. Having controlled for sex and eligibility for free school meals, reading and mental wellbeing scores were found to be positively correlated, with a correlation co-efficient of 0.13.

Correlation co-efficients range from -1, indicating a strong negative relationship, to +1, indicating a strong positive relationship, with 0 representing no relationship. Whilst 0.13 is a relatively weak correlation, given the range of factors that may influence wellbeing and frequency of reading, findings suggest that as one increases so does the other.

#BeeWell’s and our own research shows us that reading continues to be closely related to children’s wellbeing and has valuable implications for communities as they endeavour to support pupils’ learning and mental health. Some suggestions on how school leaders can support a positive reading culture at school are given by Dr Julia Clements, Principal Education Psychologist at Place2Be in the video below.

Jonathan Douglas, CEO of the National Literacy Trust, also shares his insights on how schools can best support disadvantaged pupils with their reading. Since this recording, the National Literacy Trust released their annual literacy survey report in partnership with McDonalds, where over half a million children’s books have been donated to those growing up in the most deprived areas of the country.

Looking ahead, our Autumn report will explore the relationship between the experience of school staff and pupil wellbeing. If you would like advance notice of this next release in the series then please express your interest on our EOI form.

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