Library News August 2018 - Reading For Pleasure

Reading for Pleasure

The Waimakariri Libraries aim to promote reading, literacy and learning; support a stronger, healthier and more resilient community; promote a culture of exploration and creativity; contribute to the economic wellbeing of individuals and the community, and deliver excellence in public service.
The Libraries’ Strategic Objectives include the promotion reading for pleasure and the following report outlines the initiatives that are in place to give focus and energy to the development of a culture of reading in our community.

The benefits of reading for pleasure

Encouraging reading for pleasure among all age groups is a core foundation of the Waimakariri Library service. A recent review of current literature and research suggests that this continues to be an important focus for the health and well-being of our community. We will continue to develop and deliver innovative, high quality programmes and materials around books and reading.

Reading for pleasure is defined by the National Library Trust (UK) as the “reading we do of our own free will, anticipating the satisfaction we will get from the act of reading.”

Escape, relaxation, entertainment – these are some of the reasons why people read for pleasure but there is a lot more to reading than just the chance to unwind. Numerous studies show why reading for pleasure is important for educational and economic achievement, for mental health and for community wellbeing.

Educational success and economic outcomes

The fact that reading for pleasure is an integral part of educational success has been well studied and documented. In New Zealand, a major finding for “Competent children, competent learners” research is that by age 14 “enjoyment of reading is a key indication for engagement in learning and for competency levels”. While according to the OECD (2002) reading enjoyment is more important to a child’s educational success than their families’ socio-economic status and their parents’ level of education.

Books offer a richer vocabulary than general speech and television viewing. A child who reads 5 minutes a day will be exposed to 282,000 words a year, while a child who reads for 20 minutes a day will be exposed to 1,800,000 words a year (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998).

Children who enjoy reading tend to read on average a year above their peers. They also have better writing and spelling skills, text comprehension, and gain higher results in maths tests (Sullivan and Brown).

For adults and children, reading for pleasure leads to an enriched general knowledge.  A study from 1993 looked at the amount of misinformation believed by readers and non-readers – with readers scoring significantly better compared to those who watched a lot of television. (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998). In these days of fake news this knowledge and judgement is even more important.

Low literacy is linked to lack of employment opportunities and increased dependence on welfare, while those with higher literacy levels can expect to achieve a higher income. The 2013 OECD Skills Outlook showed that 16-year-olds who choose to read for pleasure are more likely to secure managerial or professional jobs later in life.

Health and well-being

Reading for pleasure is a great way to relax and take some time out.  A 2009 study from the UK found that reading reduces stress by lowering the heart rate, reducing muscle tension and altering our state of mind.  It was proven to be 68% more effective at reducing stress levels than listening to music, 300% better than going for a walk and 700% better than playing video games.  Reading allows relaxation while still being mentally and emotionally engaged, unlike television. Reading is also associated with better sleeping patterns.

People who read regularly say that reading makes them feel good and improves their lives. Generally, readers are more satisfied with life, happier and have a better sense of purpose (Billington, 2015). Readers experience higher self-esteem. Also, there can be a sense of recognition when reading, understanding that others have gone through similar difficulties; this can help the reader to feel less alone and more accepting of their situation.

There are links between low literacy and depression, but reading for pleasure can reduce the symptoms of depression and also have an effect in reduce the risk of dementia in later life (Reading Agency, 2015).

Community well-being

Research shows that reading enhances empathy, cultural awareness and relationships with others.  Billington (2015) showed that reading for just 30 minutes a week means you are 57% more likely to have a greater awareness of other cultures. This empathy and awareness means that readers are more comfortable engaging with strangers and have a greater sense of community spirit than non-readers. Rates of volunteering and donating are higher among readers.

The role of the Waimakariri Libraries in reading for pleasure

Waimakariri Libraries play an essential role in encouraging and facilitating reading for pleasure in our community by providing access to a wide range of books appealing to all tastes and catering for every level of reader. A key factor in developing reading for pleasure, especially for children, is choice (Department of Education (UK), 2012). Young people who use a public library are nearly twice as likely to read outside the classroom every day (Clark & Runbold, 2006).

Library staff provide a professional reader advisory service for all customers, offering advice and discussion about books and reading. For parents trying to choose for their children, staff may recommend a humorous book (research shows that 63% of children aged between 6 and 17 would prefer a book that makes them laugh (Scholastic Reading Report, 2016)). However, it is always better if staff can talk directly to the child—a key predictor for children’s reading frequently, is that they choose their own books. Encouraging reading aloud to children and modelling it through pre-school programmes is another important service to families.

Current reading programmes and services

Waimakariri Libraries have a strong focus on reading for pleasure and run a number of reading-related events and programmes.

In 2018, programmes offered have included:

  • Babytimes, toddlertimes and storytimes programmes (focussed on pre-school literacy)
  • Children’s summer reading challenge
  • Adults’ summer reading challenge
  • Book Banter evening
  • Author events (such as Murder in the Library & Emma Stevens)
  • Adults’ book groups in Kaiapoi, Rangiora and Oxford
  • Children’s book group
  • School and pre-school visits
  • Special book displays and promotions (such as Blind Date with a Book)
  • Writing classes for adults and children

Waimakariri Libraries also provide:

  • Professional advice about books and reading (reader advisory) for all customers
  • A wide range of reading materials and formats to appeal to all interests and abilities
  • Reading advice via the libraries’ website including the opportunity to sign up for genre newsletters and access to specialist reader advisory databases (such as NoveList)
  • Reader advisory aids such as bookmarks, posters, newsletters and book displays

New initiatives include:

  • Who else writes like – a new database which allows customers to search for favourite authors and receive recommendations of similar writers
  • Combined winter reading challenge – a chance for adults, children and families to have fun reading over the winter culminating with a special hygge evening
  • The Reading Challenge for schools – developed in conjunction with local teachers to especially appeal to reluctant readers in our district
  • Inspiring young readers – a discussion evening for parents and caregivers looking a practical ways parents can get their children reading and help them to find the right books
  • School librarians – a networking opportunity for Waimakariri school librarians hosted by Waimakariri Library staff plus initiatives for their student librarians
  • A customer and staff review blog on the website – giving staff and customers opportunity to share reviews
  • Young adults bookgroup – connecting young adults who love reading

Professional development

It is important to maintain and enhance staff skills in this critical area of library work. This includes in-house training, but also attending external sessions when available. Library staff attended a talk in May entitled “Collaborating to create a nation of readers” which was given by Jeannie Skinner of the National Library’s School Library Service. The focus was the importance of children reading for pleasure, and the benefits this can bring to the individual and the community.


This report has reviewed the products and services provided by Waimakariri Libraries to encourage and support reading for pleasure among all ages. It explores the theory and science behind the library service and explains why reading for pleasure is so important for both the individual and the community.

In summary, reading will help children to achieve academically and economically, it will also help them to become empathetic, community-minded adults.  For adults, reading is a proven way to reduce stress and combat loneliness, building self-awareness and relationships with others along the way.

Reading for Pleasure was written by Jennifer Kirkwood,

Reader and Reference Services Coordinator, Waimakariri Libraries.


OECD (2002)  Reading for Change: Performance and Engagement across Countries: Results from PISA 2000.

Wylie, Cathy and Hipkins, Rose (2006). Growing independence: Competent Learners at 14, New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

Cunningham, Anne & Stanovich, Keith (1998). What reading does for the mind, American Educator. 22.

OECD (2013), OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills.

Lewis, David  (2009). Galaxy Commissioned Stress Research, Mindlab International, Sussex University.

Billington, Josie (2015). Reading between the Lines: the Benefits of Reading for Pleasure, Quick Reads, University of Liverpool.

The Reading Agency (2015). Literature Review: The impact of reading for pleasure and empowerment.

Research evidence on reading for pleasure (2012), Department of Education (UK).

Clark, Christina & Runbold, Kate (2006). Reading for Pleasure: A research overview, National Literacy Trust (UK).

Kids and Family Reading Report (2015). Scholastic UK.

Reading for pleasure: A door to success, National Library, Services to Schools.