Reading improves emotional health, says report

Reading improves emotional health, says report

There is more evidence that the impact of reading for pleasure has a greater effect on the emotional and social health of children and young people than other age groups, a new report from The Reading Agency suggests.

The report ‘Literature Review: The impact of reading for pleasure and empowerment’, compiled by BOP Consulting and funded by the Peter Sowerby Foundation, looks at the impact of reading for pleasure on health and social welfare.

To put together the report, BOP Consulting reviewed 51 academic publications and reports from the UK literacy sector, looking at how reading affects health issues such as stress or dementia, or emotional wellbeing, in four population groups: adults, children and young people, parents and carers, and adults with health needs.

It found that reading for please therefore has a huge impact on children, more than on other age groups, and that children will read more if they have some control over when and where they read.

For example, the report referenced a 2014 German study of 104 children aged 7-9, entitled Reading and Feeling, which involved children whose regular daycare programme was replaced with a literature programme. It found they had a better understanding of emotions and emotional vocabulary.  The results varied by gender, with the improvement being more marked in boys.

It also mentioned a 2008 American study, ‘The complex world of adolescent literacy: Myths, motivations, and mysteries’, which showed that talking about literature online or in real life (outside the classroom) allows adolescents to develop social identities, including gender and ethnic identities.

Other benefits mentioned include knowledge of the self and other people, social and cultural capital, imagination, and relaxation and mood regulation.

The Reading Agency said, however, that reading for pleasure has a positive effect on the emotional health of people of all ages, because there is a “growing body of evidence” that shows how reading can alleviate symptoms of health conditions such as depression, partial sightedness and dementia.

The agency also warned that the diversity of studies already published means it is difficult to draw conclusions about the overall impact of reading for pleasure, and called for a more strategic approach to research and evaluation within the reading and literacy sector.

The report is the first stage of a project, funded by the Peter Sowerby Foundation, to create a reading outcomes framework in partnership with reading charities, public libraries and education organisations.