What the Research Says: Reading Self-Selected Books for Fun

Nurturing a love of reading comes naturally when we rely on good research to guide us. On edu@scholastic, we're featuring five important issues related to children's literacy development—and evidence supporting the importance of each one. Today we take on "Reading Self-Selected Books for Fun." For more information about the joy and importance of reading, and to download research and lesson plans, be sure to explore our Open a World of Possible homepage.

The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report: Fifth Edition confirms what we’ve long known: Independent reading, both at school and at home, builds successful readers. What’s more, the research shows that giving students a say in what they read is key. And from our experience, we also know that frequent reading creates proficient readers who thrive personally and academically.

The report adds to the abundant data we’ve had for years that demonstrates that in-school independent reading centered on reading books for fun creates kids who love to read. Seventy-eight percent of children ages 12-17 who are frequent readers (defined by the report as kids who read books for fun five to seven times a week) reported that they have the opportunity to read a book of choice independently during the school day. Only 24 percent of infrequent readers—those reading for fun less than one day a week—say the same. In addition, 91 percent of children ages 6-17 agree that “my favorite books are the ones that I have picked out myself.” It’s clear that independent reading programs that invite reading choice and promote reading pleasure give rise to kids who not only read but also, more important, kids who want to read.

Some of the first research linking choice to reading pleasure dates back to the 1970s in a report titled They Love to Read by Dr. John W. Studebaker. The report showed that among kids who chose their own books through Scholastic Book Clubs, the majority read those books from cover-to-cover. Parents reported that their children were “much more likely” to finish reading books they bought for themselves in contrast to books selected for them.

Readers are most engaged with their reading—and derive the most pleasure from it—when they are able to follow their own reading interests and shape their own reading lives, a key finding also of the research conducted by Jeff Wilhelm and Michael Smith, documented in their book Reading Unbound.

References:

Scholastic Kids & Family Reading ReportTM: Fifth Edition commissioned by Scholastic and conducted by YouGov; 2014.
Studebaker, J. (1977). The Love to read: Report on a study of paperback book clubs in classrooms of five cities. New York: Scholastic.
Van den Broek, P., Lynch, J., Nashlund, J., Levers-Landis, C., Verduin, K. (2003). The development of comprehension of main ideas in narratives: Evidence from the selection of titles. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95, 707-718.
Wilhelm, J. & Smith, M. (2013). Reading unbound: Why kids need to read what they want—and why we should let them. New York: Scholastic.