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Literacy Lab

Literacy Lab

Collaborative research practices, to understand and improve children and young people's literacy experiences and outcomes

Measuring Reading Engagement

2022 – 2023

While there is a considerable body of research highlighting the benefits of book reading for children’s reading, language, social and emotional outcomes, it is the quality and depth of children’s engagement while they read books that will influence their experiences and outcomes.

Reading engagement is multidimensional and reflects behavioural, cognitive, affective and social components:


Behavioural engagement reflects children’s reading behaviours, that is, how frequently and for how long children read, in addition to the breadth of their reading activities.  Research demonstrates that the amount of time children read outside of school is important for their reading skills and comprehension, with fiction book reading being particularly important.

Cognitive engagement reflects children’s level of cognitive effort while reading and the extent to which they put into place strategies (e.g., decoding, re-reading) to support their comprehension. Cognitively engaged children are much more likely to decipher unfamiliar words, work out word meanings, monitor their comprehension and make connections between information in the book and their existing knowledge. Cognitive engagement has also been found to predict reading comprehension skills.

Affective engagement includes immersing oneself in a book, relating personal experiences to text content, using ones’ imagination and empathising with characters.  When children are asked to describe their reading experiences they often refer to reading as being an opportunity for them to relax, laugh, explore new worlds, escape reality, and/or spend time with fictional friends.  In this way, book reading supports wellbeing, in addition to understanding of oneself, and others.

Social engagement reflects children’s participation in reading activities with others (e.g., friends, classmates, teachers and family), for example, talking about books, reading together and/or recommending, sharing and borrowing books. Providing inclusive opportunities for these social practices is key to creating communities of readers within a school, and is associated with a range of rich and diverse outcomes.

To date, there is very little research highlighting the multi-dimensional nature of reading engagement, and no suitable measure for use by teachers and researchers.  We are currently developing a new Reading Engagement Scale, informed by research, discussions with teachers and other professionals, and with input from children.  The Reading Engagement Scale is currently being evaluated and will be available from 2023.


You can access a Teacher Summary here: Teacher Guide Reading Engagement


Project Researchers:

Sarah McGeown, University of Edinburgh, UK

Kristin Conradi Smith, William and Mary School of Education, Virginia, US

Our thanks to all those who have provided input into the Reading Engagement Scale.


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