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Recreational reading has benefits for various population groups

The Reading Agency. Literature review: The impact of reading for pleasure and empowerment BOP Consulting. 2015.

Review question

•    What is the research evidence on the non-literacy outcomes of recreational reading and how do these outcomes differ based on populations, settings or program designs?


       Recreational reading is defined as reading for pleasure, entertainment or empowerment.

       Although there is a large amount of research on the effects of recreational reading on literacy and reading outcomes, few studies have focused on non-literacy effects.

       This systematic review examines the non-literacy effects of recreational reading.

How the review was done

       Review authors searched two major academic databases to retrieve peer-reviewed articles. Key literature provided by the project steering group and grey literature sources were also assessed.

       Eligible articles were limited to those published in the past 10 years, that focused on self-directed, recreational reading outcomes.

       This systematic review was commissioned by The Reading Agency and funded by the Peter Sowerby Foundation in the United Kingdom.

What the researchers found

       The findings of the review were categorized based on the five main populations that the literature focused on – general adult populations, children and young people, parents and caregivers, adults with health needs, and adults with additional needs.

       The main outcomes reported for general adult populations were enjoyment, relaxation, increased understanding of oneself and social identities, improved knowledge of other cultures, increased relatedness, increased community cohesion, and increased social skills.

       For children and young people, the majority of research outcomes related to enjoyment, knowledge of self and others, social interaction, imagination, social and cultural understanding, focus, relaxation, and mood regulation. For younger children, improvements in communication skills and longer-term education outcomes were also reported.

       From the few studies exploring outcomes for parents and caregivers, links were found between reading for pleasure and improvements in parent-child communication, understanding, and improved parenting knowledge.

       Adults with health needs were found to experience a reduction in stress levels, improvement in health literacy, and improvements in dementia symptoms from recreational reading.

       Studies on adults with additional needs tended to involve adults with below average literacy levels. These studies presented findings relating to self-efficacy (an individual's belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviours), communication, learning motivation, and relatedness (ability to connect to others).


       The review authors concluded that there is a need for a more strategic approach to research within the reading and literacy sector to improve the future quality of research evidence.

       Overall, the current literature contains a relatively strong and growing body of research evidence demonstrating the benefits of recreational reading for different population groups.


Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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