Research

Understanding the impact and characteristics of school libraries and reading spaces

Added 09 Oct 2019

National Literacy Trust asked Nottingham Trent University to analyse data from our Annual Literacy Survey 2019. We wanted to explore children and young people’s use of school libraries, and conduct a review of international research published in the last 10 years that has examined the potential impacts of school library use.

This report summarises the outcomes of this work, starting with the literature review before moving on to present the results of the Annual Literacy Survey analysis.

Key findings

  • The review found that there was evidence of an association between school library use and reading attainment, although there was no clear-cut evidence that library use ‘caused’ increased reading attainment, due to a lack of experimental or longitudinal studies in this area.
  • In relation to pupil wellbeing, the review found that there was some evidence of an association between school library use and mental wellbeing, but only a small percentage of school librarians saw pastoral care to be an important part of their job.
  • The analysis of the Annual Literacy Survey data set focused on a subset of 694 children and young people for whom standardised reading scores were also available.
  • Overall, children and young people who used the school library had better levels of reading enjoyment, reading for pleasure, reading confidence, writing for pleasure, writing confidence, and reading attainment than those who did not. They also tended to read and write a greater variety of material relative to non-library users.
  • For children and young people receiving free school meals, library users in this group showed higher reading enjoyment, increased reading and writing for pleasure, and tended to read and write a greater variety of material relative to non-library users.

We recommend that more work is undertaken to look at the impact of school library use on pupil outcomes over time to unpick cause and effect of these results. We also recommend collaboration between staff and pupils of all ages to build more appropriate collections of reading material, and that issues of library access and availability of trained library staff are addressed at policy and school leadership levels.