Literature Review: The Impact of Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment


Literature Review: The Impact of Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment

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This report was published by The Reading Agency.


This literature review is the first stage in a wider programme of work to develop an outcomes framework to guide evaluation in the reading sector, funded by the Peter Sowerby Foundation.

The main aim of the review was to collate and summarise research findings relating to non-literacy outcomes of ‘reading for pleasure or empowerment’ (also referred to as ‘recreational reading’). The review seeks to build on other literature reviews that have largely focused on the effects of reading for pleasure on literacy and reading outcomes.

The reviewers searched academic publication databases, as well as integrating key literature from organisations working in the UK reading and literacy sector and general web searching for ‘grey literature’. In total, 51 documents met the inclusion criteria and were included in the review.

A key theme that came through the research was the centrality of enjoyment of reading as a prerequisite for the other outcomes of reading to be achieved. Indeed, it was clear that attention must be paid to how individuals are motivated to read so that programmes seeking to bring about additional outcomes are best designed and targeted. It was clear from the review that reading is closely linked to increasing understanding of our own identities and can also play a large part in relating to others, understanding their world-views and so forth. This area of ‘identity development’ is complex and tends to be explored across different academic disciplines (education, psychology, sociology and the humanities) within the review. Another key theme that emerged was the use of recreational reading for distraction, relaxation, and knowledge development. These are likely starting points for the development of more ‘externally observable’ and measurable impacts.

The Reading Agency. (2015, June). Literature Review: The Impact of Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment.

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