Reading for Pleasure Closes the Word Gap

Reading for Pleasure Closes the Word Gap

Book Clubs in Schools (BCiS) is a not-for-profit organisation which delivers a unique cross-age peer-led book club programme in a growing network of secondary schools. The book clubs develop students’ love of reading, analytical skills and improve their self-confidence through open discussion. They acquire leadership and facilitation skills and valuable volunteering experience. Our programme is simple to set-up, easy to manage and sustainable, creating a reading for pleasure culture throughout the school.


The Education Endowment Fund Teaching and Learning Toolkit includes the following ideas on how to improve the attainment and wider outcomes for children and young people:

Character and essential life skills

The EEF highlights growing evidence of the many benefits to young people’s social and academic development of any activities which may enhance the development of positive character traits or ‘virtues’ such as resilience, empathy or self-confidence whilst acknowledging that it is difficult to quantitatively measure the impact.

The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues Education at The University of Birmingham is a leading organisation in this field and carries out research. In their April 2018 newsletter, The Jubilee Centre published the results of a poll of 450 teachers; 80% of whom thought that ‘a great focus on character education in schools would have a positive impact on pupil attainment’.

In book clubs ‘character builds character’, the novels used can be carefully chosen to allow children and young people to consider vital issues such as bullying, family break up, bereavement, racism, love, courage and friendship. Readers can be inspired to take a different perspective on issues through the eyes of the characters or through listening to the points of views of their peers.

Peer tutoring – this includes cross-age tutoring

Such activities have ‘a positive impact on learning, with an average positive effect of approximately five additional months’ progress. Studies have identified benefits for both tutors and tutees, and for a wide range of age groups. Though all types of pupils appear to benefit from peer tutoring, there is some evidence that children from disadvantaged backgrounds and low attaining pupils make the biggest gains.

Book Clubs in Schools incorporates all the most effective features of a peer-led programme:

  • Age difference between book club leaders and clubbers of at least 2 years
  • A structured programme of questioning
  • Training and support for the book club leaders
  • The book club is an enrichment to the existing curriculum providing new materials and ideas
  • Book clubs are a focused activity taking place weekly over 10 sessions

Oral Language interventions

This involves a focus on reading and comprehension skills based on the discussion of texts, according to the EEF this could include ‘targeted reading aloud and discussing books with young children, explicitly extending pupils’ spoken vocabulary, the use of structured questioning to develop reading comprehension.’ Again, on average, pupils participating in oral language intervention programmes make an additional 5 months progress in a year.

Research commissioned by Oxford University Press and published on the 19thApril 2018 “Why closing the word gap matters”, found that 4 out of 10 pupils in their first year of secondary school have a vocabulary that is so limited it will significantly affect their future attainment.

The decline in the number of children reading for pleasure, access to books in the home and limited opportunities to engage with reading beyond the restrictions of the curriculum are all contributory factors to this. Establishing book clubs in schools can actively start to tackle these issues.

Collaborative Learning

This involves pupils working in a group with a shared activity which is the nature of a book club.

According to the EEF, ‘the impact of collaborative approaches on learning is consistently positive. However, the size of impact varies, so it is important to get the detail right. Effective collaborative learning requires much more than just sitting pupils together and asking them to work in a group; structured approaches with well-designed tasks lead to the greatest learning gains. Approaches which promote talk and interaction between learners tend to result in the best gains’.

Book Clubs in Schools will provide training for book club leaders and structured questions to support the weekly meetings, although our experience suggests that the young book club leaders are keen to add their own ideas and strategies to keep the ‘clubbers’ involved and interested.

In summary, establishing book clubs in your school may provide a range of benefits and using our online pre and post book club evaluations will enable you to start to measure that impact for yourself. Why wait?



Written by Deb Barnes, BCiS Regional Manager, West Midlands

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