15th November 2016

New measure to value reading for pleasure alongside traditionally assessed cognitive skills

Leading charities and educational organisations, including Beanstalk, have today announced they will create a new, consistent measurement of children’s reading in primary schools, which takes into account the range of skills needed to develop a love of reading and to read well. The announcement comes as variations in assessment measures suggest a decline in year-on-year SAT results for 11-year-olds reading at the expected level for their age.

The recommendation is part of a bold new strategy published by the Read On. Get On. campaign - of which Beanstalk is a founding member - set up in 2014 to get every child leaving primary school to read well by 2025.

This summer’s SATs results showed a sharp decline in 11-year-olds reading at the expected level for their age, falling from 80% in 2015 to 66% in 2016[1]. Reading was also shown to lag behind writing (74%), grammar, spelling and punctuation (72%) and maths (70%).

Variations in assessment data and gaps in effective measures make year-on-year comparisons of children’s reading abilities currently impossible. Indeed, many schools and parents were left feeling that this year’s results did not reflect the progress their children had made in reading.

The Read On. Get On. campaign believes that current measures are failing to take into account the whole range of activities that define whether a child is reading well. The campaign will therefore aim to develop a series of measures which will reflect reading well at age 11 to include both cognitive and affective (motivation, enjoyment, engagement) processes.

Research shows that pupils who enjoy reading ‘very much’ are three times as likely to read above the level expected for their age as those who do not enjoy reading at all[2]; whilst the national curriculum requires schools to support children’s enjoyment of reading, this is not reflected in current assessments.

Malorie Blackman, children’s author and former Children’s Laureate, said:

  • “I believe we must do everything we can to encourage children to read for pleasure, which is why I’m backing the new Read On. Get On. strategy to get all our children reading. The benefits of reading for enjoyment are boundless for children; not only can it help to improve vocabularies and fuel imaginations, but it can also help children to do well at school in all areas and give them the building blocks to succeed in life. With a wide range of stories and reading materials now available to children, we must value all forms of reading and encourage children to read whatever takes their fancy.”

Ginny Lunn, CEO of Beanstalk, a member of the Read On. Get On. coalition, said:

  • “Every week thousands of people volunteer as Beanstalk reading helpers to help make reading fun for children who are struggling with their reading. Our one-to-one support not only improves children’s reading attainment but also helps them develop a real enjoyment of reading. We look forward to working with the Read On. Get On. coalition on developing these new measures that demonstrate the importance of motivation, enjoyment and engagement in reading well.”

Further research by the Read On. Get On. campaign shows that poor reading skills have a substantial impact on social inequality and the UK economy. If not addressed, the problem will cost us £32.1 billion by 2025[3], which will equate to more than £1,200 per household.

The campaign’s new strategy calls on the whole of society to play a role in getting England’s children reading and highlights the importance of collaboration and local leadership; including new and innovative partnerships with business, publishing, the arts and the media to widen the reach of the campaign.

The 10 steps of the Read On. Get On. strategy to get England’s children reading are:


  1. The government should restate its commitment to our goal.
  2. The Read On. Get On. coalition will recruit local leaders to convene campaigns addressing specific literacy challenges, using local assets alongside national programmes.
  3. The Read On. Get On. coalition will advocate and innovate to ensure services that promote children’s reading deliver quality efficiently.
  4. The Read On. Get On. coalition will work with the government and researchers to create a consistent national measure of children’s reading and ways of tracking progress in early language and literacy throughout the early years.

Changing behaviour and cultural attitudes to reading

  1. The Read On. Get On. coalition will develop a new integrated, national programme of activities including a further behaviour change campaign to support parenting, early language and reading.
  2. The Read On. Get On. coalition will lead a national campaign and activities to promote reading for pleasure in schools, libraries, at home and in the wider community.

Early years

  1. The government should increase investment in the early years workforce.
  2. The government should refresh the role of children’s centres, which are a vital resource in supporting early language and reading skills in disadvantaged communities.

Primary school years

  1. School leaders and professional bodies should support teachers’ professional development and subject knowledge of teaching and encouraging reading.
  2. The government should work with academy chains and trusts, local authorities and school leaders to ensure that all primary schools have school improvement support when local authorities no longer have a duty to supply it.

For more information on Read On. Get On. and to download a copy of the strategy, visit www.readongeton.org.uk.


Notes to Editors

Quotes from the Read On. Get On. coalition members are available below.

Media contact

Lisa Gilbert, Media and Communications Manager at the National Literacy Trust, on 020 7820 6275 or at [email protected]   

Danielle Wright, Senior Media and Communications Officer at the National Literacy Trust, on 0207 820 6262 or at [email protected]

About Read On. Get On.

Read On. Get On. is a national campaign to get all children reading well. Launched in 2014 by a coalition of charities and educational organisation, the campaign aims to get all children leaving primary school able to read well by 2025.

The Read On. Get On. coalition comprises of:

  • National Literacy Trust (secretariat)
  • Achievement for All
  • Beanstalk
  • Book Trust
  • Harper Collins Publishers
  • I Can
  • NAHT – National Association of Head Teachers
  • The Publishers Association
  • The Reading Agency
  • Save the Children
  • SCL – Society of Chief Librarians
  • Teach First

For more information, visit: www.readongeton.org.uk 

Quotes from Read On. Get On. coalition members

National Literacy Trust Director Jonathan Douglas said:

  • “In order to support our children’s reading and ensure they have the skills they need to succeed, we must be able to effectively measure how they are doing. The recent SATs results suggest that while skills such as decoding can be more effectively measured through the tests, the complex process of reading for meaning and understanding is less successfully measured in this way.
  • “Our research shows the significant impact that reading enjoyment can have on attainment. The vital teaching of phonics and comprehension in schools must be complemented by approaches that help every child to develop a love of reading.”

Sue Wilkinson MBE, Chief Executive, The Reading Agency, said:

  • “We have seen through programmes such as the Summer Reading Challenge how important it is to make reading fun: something children want to do, rather than something they have to do. This new series of measures recognises the importance of this by including motivation, enjoyment and engagement as well as cognitive processes. The ten points in our new strategy show that we need to take a holistic approach to getting and keeping children enthusiastic about reading, joining up what happens in schools with what happens at home, in the community and in the library. The Reading Agency is looking forward to working closely with the Read On. Get On. coalition and a wide range of organisations to make this happen.”

Bob Reitemeier, I CAN Chief Executive, said:

  • “Reading is fundamental in enabling children and adults to function in today's society and relies upon listening, understanding and developing good language skills. It is shocking that far too many children do not have the essential language skills needed to enable them to read well. The impact of this is profound; poor language at age five means you are four times more likely to struggle with reading at age 11.
  • “Creating a new, consistent national measure of children’s reading will be an essential way of tracking progress in early language and literacy throughout the early years to identify those children who are at risk or poor language and support children in gaining good communication skills, the most important employability skills needs for a young people entering their first job.” 

Sarah Mears, ASCEL (The Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians) and Library Services Manager, Essex Libraries, said:

  • “Children want to read well when they are entranced by a story or fascinated by facts. The public library service supports children and their parents to find those great reads that start them on their reading journey. Public libraries offer a wraparound reading for enjoyment experience complementing reading in schools. We are delighted to be working alongside our partners on this new strategy which emphasizes the importance of reading being valued equally in schools and in communities.”

Brett Wigdortz, founder and CEO of education charity Teach First, said:

  • “Teach First has recruited more than 10,000 teachers since 2003, and our experience has shown us that literacy is the cornerstone of a good education. We want to see every child in the UK receive a world-class education, regardless of their background. For that to happen, it is vital that we give children the support to become not just competent readers, but also enthusiastic readers. This ambitious new strategy sets out how we can achieve that.”

[1] Department for Education, National curriculum assessments: key stage 2, 2016 (provisional)

[2] National Literacy Trust (2016), Children’s and Young People’s Reading in 2015

[3] Read On. Get On. (2014), How reading can help children escape poverty. Published by Save the Children on behalf of the Read On. Get On. campaign