The benefits of reading fiction

Updated: Jun 16

The evidence suggests that reading for pleasure leads to increased attainment. Clark and DeZoya (2011) found a significant positive link between enjoyment and attainment indicating that pupils who read more are also better readers (this seems obvious but still worth pointing out).

You don't have to look very far to find evidence for the benefits of teenagers or children reading fictional books regularly. While your school may completely ignore World Book Day (like mine did) or make use of it as an opportunity to do something fun with the students, you should use it to promote the reading of fictional books- and see your students reap the benefits.

What stood out to me here is that fictional readers developed better reading skills than all of the other types tested in the study. Why is this the case? It's hard to tell exactly but it is thought that fictional books better encourage readers to identify thought patterns while non-fictional books may just be stating facts and opinions of an author without necessarily allowing the reader to understand the thinking of the author, as they are often extraordinary people with no relation to the reader. Readers get lost in the world that the fictional author has created, opening their eyes to new ways of describing events and organising thoughts. Simply putting this, as student it is easier to empathise and understand the perspective of a fictional character than perhaps the autobiography of a historic figure. This increases engagement in the text and therefore leads to better reading ability in students (DI Tamir, 2016).

Backing up this idea it seems that it has been suggested that fiction readers possess stronger social-cognitive abilities than both non-readers and non-fiction readers (Mar et al, 2006, 2009, 2010).

It is also apparent that reading fictional books can have benefits in terms of well-being, coping with stress and mental illness such as depression. The existing literature shows that the value of using reading therapy in the treatment of mental illness and this is supported by the evidence (Fanner & Urquhart, 2008)

So, the case has been made for reading non fiction books in school- let's look at ways in which we can promote reading in our schools, using World Book Day as a great opportunity.

Here are some tips to try as a teacher:

1. Show your own love of reading- share with students a book that you are reading and talk to them about this.

2. Add a fictional book to subject specific reading lists.

3. Praise and reward students for books that have been completed.

4. Get students to bring their own books in and discuss them with their peers.

5. Give students an opportunity to trade books with each other.

6. Have students complete a book review at home.

7. Project based work on student's favourite fictional character.

As a whole school:

1. Make World Book Day an important event in the school in the aim of raising awareness.

2. Allow teachers the opportunity to incorporate fictional books into all lessons.

3. Make the focus about buying or getting hold of a new book- rather than spending money on fancy dress.

I'm sure you have many of your own ideas and we'd love to hear them- please scroll down our site and add your comments underneath the blog posts. Oh and don't forget that you should read too!



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