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Author visits to schools boost reading skills

28th Jun 19


New research from the National Literacy Trust shows that author visits to schools boost children and young people's reading skills and their enjoyment and confidence in reading and writing. However, only 1 in 4 pupils had an author visit this academic year, with those from the poorest backgrounds most likely to miss out.


The report, The impact of writer visits on children and young people's reading and writing engagement, is based on a survey of 56,905 children and young people aged 9 to 18 across the UK. It found that twice as many children and young people who had an author visit to their school read above the expected level for their age compared with their peers who didn't have such a visit (30.8% vs 16.5%).

What's more, pupils who had an author visit to their school reported higher levels of reading enjoyment (68.2% vs 47.2%) and writing enjoyment (43.9% vs 32.4%) than their peers who didn't receive a visit; and were also more likely to have high levels of confidence in their reading (36.8% vs 25.1%) and writing (21.9% vs 16.9%) capabilities.

Children and young people from the poorest backgrounds lag behind their more affluent peers in literacy at all stages of their education. Despite being most in need of the benefits that come from author visits, these pupils are most likely to miss out. Some 23.7% of children and young people who receive free school meals (FSMs) said that they had a writer visit compared with their peers who don't receive FSMs (27.6%).

In response, the National Literacy Trust has launched two new projects with the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) to give children from disadvantaged communities more opportunities to meet authors through unique cultural experiences and visits to schools.

A question about writer visits in schools was included in a recent survey commissioned by the Great School Library Campaign. 1,750 schools from England, Wales and Northern Ireland took part in the online survey.

According to their feedback, just over three in five schools (61%) have had a visit from a writer or poet in the past year while 37% have not. Breaking this down by country, schools in Northern Ireland (37%) and Wales (44%) are significantly less likely than schools in England (62%) to have had a visit (data was not collected for Scotland).

While there is little disparity between primary and secondary schools, there are major differences in the results by school type. Independent schools are considerably more likely than other schools to have had a writer visit (84%) - 23 percentage points greater than the average. In contrast, just 1 in 10 special schools (11%) say that they have been visited by an author or poet.

You can download a full copy of the report via the link, below.

Some key findings:

Writers visits from the school's perspective

3 in 5 schools (61%) said that they have had a visit from a writer or poet in the past year.

The most commonly cited reason was to support reading for pleasure (79%), followed by to encourage creating writing (67%) and to support the English curriculum (47%).

Writer visits, children and young people - some background stats

1 in 4 (26.9%) children and young people said in 2019 that they had had a writer visit at school.

More children aged 9 to 11 (34.0%) compared with their older counterparts had a writer visit (aged 14 to 16: 18.8%; aged 16 to 18: 19.5%).

Slightly fewer children and young people who receive free school meals (FSMs), the proxy of socioeconomic status, said that they had a writer visit compared with their peers who don't receive FSMs (23.7% vs. 27.6%).

There were regional variations in the percentage of children and young people who said that they had a writer visit, with more children and young people living in the North East (34.1%) and the South West (31.9%) saying that they had such a visit, while children and young people living in Wales (8.8%) were least likely to say that they had a writer visit at school.

There were no differences between rural (27.4%) and urban (26.6%) schools in whether children and young people reported having had a writer visit.

However, there were differences by school type, with more children and young people attending independent schools (54.7%) reporting having had a writer visit than children and young people attending other schools.


Reading skills

Reading skill data from 712 participating children and young people shows that those who benefited from a writer visit have, on average, higher reading scores than those who didn't have such an experience.

Overall, twice as many children and young people who had a writer visit read above the expected level for their age compared with their peers who didn't have a writer visit.


Enjoyment of reading and writing

Reading enjoyment levels are markedly higher among those who said that they had a writer visit (68.2%) compared with both the sample as a whole (53.0%) and those who haven't had a visit (47.4%).

The level of writing enjoyment (43.9%) is also higher among those who had a writer visit but the differences with levels in the sample as a whole (35.8%) and those who didn't have a visit (32.5%) are less pronounced.


Daily reading and writing and reading and writing length

Daily reading levels are higher (36.2%) for children and young people who had a writer visit than they are for the sample as a whole (25.8%) and those who didn't have a visit (22.0%).

There were no differences in daily writing levels between the sample as a whole (12.5%), those who had a writer visit (14.0%) and those who didn't have a visit (12.0%).

Not only are children and young people who had a writer visit more likely to read daily, they are also more likely than the sample as a whole or those who didn't have a visit to say that they read (91.9% vs. 83.4% or 80.1%) and write (75.5% vs. 67.1% or 63.6%) for 10 minutes or more every day.


Reading and writing confidence

Children and young people who had a writer visit are more likely to have high reading confidence compared with their peers who didn't have a visit (36.8% vs. 25.1%).

Fewer children and young people who had a writer visit rated their writing confidence as low compared with their peers who had no visit (21.0% vs. 31.1%). By contrast, they were slightly more likely to rate their writing confidence as either 'average' or as
'high'.


Reading and writing attitudes

More children and young people who had a writer visit have high reading (45.3%) and writing (32.3%) attitudes compared with either the sample as a whole (31.6% and 24.8%) or their peers who didn't have a visit (26.1% and 21.6%).

Conversely, fewer hold low reading and writing attitudes. For example, children and young people who had a writer visit are twice less likely to have low reading attitudes compared with those who didn't have a visit (16.0% vs. 32.8%).

You can download the full report here:

literacytrust.org.uk/research-services...


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