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Reading Well: three suggestions to support children's reading and mental health

New research finds that pupils who have high confidence in and enjoyment of reading have higher wellbeing and lower anxiety than their peers. This blog shares insights from the research, and suggestions from experts on how families can support their children’s reading and mental health.

Relationship between reading and wellbeing


At ImpactEd we recently released our Reading Well research in collaboration with the National Literacy Trust, Innovations for Learning UK and Place2Be, which looked at the relationship between reading and wellbeing for young people across England.

In an educational landscape recovering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with ongoing concerns about unequal loss of learning due to school closures and concerns for children’s post-pandemic mental health, we believe this research, which explores the relationships between pupils’ reading experiences, attitudes and behaviours and their mental wellbeing, is hugely timely and important.

We found that pupils who scored a 5 (the highest score) in confidence in reading had wellbeing levels that were over 30% higher, and anxiety levels that were over 20% lower than pupils who scored a 1 (the lowest score). Similarly, pupils who enjoyed reading very much had wellbeing levels that were over 6% higher than those who didn’t enjoy reading at all.

We spoke to partners who contributed to this research to get their perspectives on the implications for children and families, and they shared some valuable suggestions on what families can do to support their child’s reading and mental health.

Suggestions for families to support their child’s reading and mental health


Read little and often

To support children to develop their reading, and thus support their emotional wellbeing, Emma Bell, Executive Director at Innovations for Learning UK, suggests that parents focus on reading ‘little and often’ rather than making reading a chore for children and their families. In the video below she shares that reading can often be integrated into things that families are already doing, such as reading recipes, road signs or subtitles on the telly. She notes that these small activities can have a big impact, and create a positive reading culture in a family.



Show Interest in older children’s reading

Our research also revealed that pupils frequently want support from their family with their reading, regardless of their age. While many pupils mentioned reading directly with family members (“I would like my family to read with me, especially my little sister”) older pupils’ suggestions for support included parents and carers asking them questions about what they are reading, and giving or suggesting books that they might enjoy (“Ask me questions about what I’m reading so I can answer and express my feelings on the book”).

Jonathan Douglas, CEO of the National Literacy Trust, references these comments when he shares in the video below that “no child is too old to be engaged” in reading. He refers to suggestions mentioned in the research, noting that a great way to support your child’s education and wellbeing is by initiating a conversation with them about their reading.


Use stories and characters to open up discussions about mental health

Some more suggestions on how families can support their child’s reading and mental wellbeing are given by Dr Julia Clements, Principal Educational Psychologist at Place2Be in the video below. She suggests that when reading with their child, families could discuss any challenges that characters in the book are going through and open up a conversation about what they can do when faced with difficult situations in life. This could support children with their understanding of and resilience towards challenging situations.


To see more findings from our research into reading and wellbeing, and for more suggestions on how to support your child’s reading at home, download the Reading Well report.