Reading during lockdown helped children cope with Covid-19 pandemic, study finds

Reading helped children cope during periods of Covid-19 lockdown, a new study has found.

The pandemic has also seen an improvement in children’s reading skills and higher enjoyment levels, according to the annual ‘What Kids Are Reading’ report.

The study by learning and assessment provider Renaissance Learning analysed the reading habits of more than 1.1 million pupils across the UK and the Republic of Ireland, including 46,722 Scottish youngsters.

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The research showed reading skills improved over lockdown periods, with many children picking up longer books of greater difficulty.

Children said they had found comfort in reading during lockdown.

The report also contains findings from a National Literacy Trust survey of 4,141 pupils across the UK that show three in five children said reading made them feel better during lockdown.

In addition, 32 per cent also said reading helped them when they felt sad because they could not see friends or family.

The number of books read overall dropped by 17 per cent compared to the previous year, but during school closures reading levels increased. When they read, children picked up more challenging books for their age.

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Primary school children and those up to Year 7, in particular, improved on their reading levels by reading more demanding texts.

At Scottish primary level and particularly Year 1, pupils were reading a larger variety of titles compared to their English counterparts.

During school closures 56 per cent of young people saying they enjoyed reading either very much or quite a lot – a marked increase on the level at the start of 2020, at 48 per cent.

Almost seven in ten children said they had read more fiction during lockdown, with adventure stories by far the most popular fiction genre.

During the first lockdown, ‘One of Us is Lying’ by Karen M McManus and ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ by J.K. Rowling topped the leader boards of the most favourite books by secondary and primary school pupils respectively.

Prof Topping, of Dundee University’s School of Education and Social Work, who analysed the results, said, “During the lockdown overall, pupils were tending to read longer books of greater difficulty and with greater comprehension.

"Having more time to read gave children the chance to immerse themselves in literature and schools should encourage more reading time now that they are open again.”

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