Press release

New national reading competition to create a generation of book lovers

Schools Minister Nick Gibb announces a new reading competition designed to inspire children to become voracious readers and boost literacy standards.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The competition is open to all seven- to 12-year-olds at schools in England. It will launch in the autumn.

The Department for Education is considering bids to design and co-deliver the competition and will choose a preferred partner in the coming weeks.

The competition will:

  • Involve school-led events which Ministers envisage will result in local, regional and national prizes to make reading more attractive.
  • Contain a strong peer-to-peer element including getting young people to select competition titles.
  • Create a link between school and home to encourage the involvement of parents to support their children.

Nick Gibb said:

I am passionate about wanting all children to develop a real love of books and of reading for pleasure.

Children should always have a book on the go. The difference in achievement between children who read for half an hour a day in their spare time and those who do not is huge - as much as a year’s education by the time they are 15.

A new national reading competition is designed to give a competitive spur to those reluctant readers who are missing out on the vast world of literature.

The Government is committed to driving up reading standards of young people because:

  • One in 10 boys leaves primary school with the reading age of a seven-year-old.
  • 15 per cent of seven-year-olds do not reach the expected level (level 2) in reading.
  • 16 per cent of 11-year-olds do not achieve the expected level (level 4) in reading.
  • England has slipped down the international table for reading in primary schools. The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) of 10-year-olds saw England fall from third out of 35 countries in 2001 to fifteenth out of 40 countries in 2006.
  • Fifteen-year-olds in England are at least six months behind those in Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia, according to the Department’s analysis of the OECD’s 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study.

Evidence shows that the regular enjoyment of reading leads to higher achievement at school.

  • A 2010 survey by the National Literacy Trust (NLT) of eight- to 17-year olds and their reading showed that more than 96 per cent of those that read daily were reading at or above the expected level.
  • A 2009 PISA study shows that almost 40 per cent of pupils in England never read for pleasure and that the difference in reading ability between these pupils and those who read for just half an hour a day is equivalent to a year’s schooling at age 15.
  • Another survey by the NLT of primary and secondary pupils showed that only 48 per cent of young people think they read enough and that more young people preferred to read websites and text messages than fiction.

The Government wants every child to leave school with a lifelong love of reading and the necessary literacy skills to succeed in life. The Department’s phonics evidence paper shows that the teaching of systematic synthetic phonics is proven to be the best method of teaching early reading. Once a child has mastered the mechanics of reading, building on it in a literacy-rich environment will enable them to become accomplished readers. Only then will they find it easier to read a wider range of literature for their own enjoyment.

The Department announced a scheme to help primary schools teach systematic synthetic phonics and drive up reading standards by offering them up to £3,000 match funding to spend on materials and training. Since the launch of the scheme in September 2011, more than 4,200 schools have signed up to spend more than £10 million on approved products and training.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Department invited bids to design, develop and co-deliver the competition from interested parties. The Department is currently considering all bids and will announce its preferred partner in the coming weeks. The Department and its partner will then further develop the proposals with the intention of launching the competition in the autumn.

  2. The National Literacy Trust’s first annual survey into young people’s reading - 2010.

  3. PISA 2009: Achievements of 15-year-olds in England

  4. Children’s and Young People’s Reading Habits and Preferences

  5. The DfE analysis of the OECD PISA 2009 study can be found in the publications section.

  6. The full OECD PISA 2009 study, including a UK note, can be found on the OECD website.

  7. The Department for Education phonics evidence paper is available on the Department for Education’s website.

DfE enquiries

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Published 7 February 2012