Research

Exploring the literacy-related behaviours and feelings of pupils eligible for free school meals in relation to their use of and access to school libraries

Added 10 Aug 2020

This paper from researchers at the National Literacy Trust and Nottingham Trent University explores how children on free school meals access and use school libraries and how this links to their enjoyment of reading and writing, how often they read and write and confidence in their reading and writing abilities.

The paper is based on findings from 6,264 children and young people aged 9 to 18 in the UK who are entitled to free school meals (FSM) and who completed our Annual Literacy Survey between January and March 2019.

The paper was published in August 2020 in School Library Research, the scholarly refereed research journal of the American Association of School Librarians.

Key findings

  • Pupils eligible for free school meals were more likely than their peers who are not eligible for free school meals to use the school library daily (66.5% vs. 60.3%)
  • Compared to their peers who receive free school meals and don't use their school library, pupils who receive free school meals and do use their school library:
    • Enjoy reading and writing more
    • Read and write for pleasure in their free time more
    • Have greater confidence in their reading and writing abilities
    • Engage with a greater diversity of reading material and writing
  • Pupils on free school meals who had access to welcoming, well-equipped libraries with books well-matched to their interests said they used their school library for those reasons and because, for many, it was a safe haven
  • Many pupils on free school meals who said they do not use their school library either had no school library or perceived the library as poorly equipped, unwelcoming or uninteresting
  • The paper concludes that effective school libraries can be a significant resource in supporting engagement with self-motivated literacy practices in children from low-income families

Report authors

  • Prof. Clare Wood, Department of Psychology, Nottingham Trent University
  • Dr. Christina Clark, Head of Research, National Literacy Trust
  • Anne Teravainen-Goff, Research Manager, National Literacy Trust
  • Georgina Rudkin, Department of Psychology, Nottingham Trent University
  • Dr. Emma Vardy, Department of Psychology, Nottingham Trent University