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Literacy Lab

Literacy Lab

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

Reading and Wellbeing











What happens when we read fiction? Despite a substantial body of research demonstrating that our general knowledge, language and literacy skills improve over time, fascinating questions remain about whether, in what instances, and how, reading fiction can support our wellbeing.


In this qualitative research project, similarities and differences across the life span, and across different social contexts, will be explored through interviews with children (aged 9-11), young people (aged 15-17) adults (aged 30-50) and older adults (aged 65+).  Through these interviews, we have explored readers’ perceptions of whether, in what instances, and how, narrative fiction contributes to their wellbeing, focusing specifically on positive emotions, connection and personal growth.


Positive emotions

Readers have been found to report a broad range and depth of positive emotions while reading, for example, relaxed, calm, happy or reassured, particularly during difficult times. Narrative fiction can elicit emotions in the reader, either directly through the characters and events depicted in the story, or indirectly through the cueing of emotionally valenced personal memories. Readers own personal histories and contexts shape their reading of narrative fiction, and fiction books often lead to the recollection of personal experiences and associated emotions.



Narrative fiction frequently portrays the social world we live in and has the potential to fulfil basic human needs for connection. Readers often report feeling connected to fictional characters, but also more connected to those around them, as they develop an enriched understanding of others, a shared understanding of societal issues represented in narrative fiction, and/or talk with others about books.


Personal growth

There is a substantial body of research demonstrating that reading fiction improves language and literacy skills across the lifespan. In addition, narrative fiction has also been found to improve empathy, perspective taking and social cognition, particularly for those readers who are more absorbed in the narrative.  Indeed, narrative fiction allows readers to explore personally relevant content, to understand themselves, and others, better.



Enhancing wellbeing through reading: A Reflective Reading Guide: Reading and Wellbeing_Reflective Reading Guide

How does reading support our wellbeing?  Summary poster: RW poster

BERA Special Issue blog:


The preregistration from this project can be found here:

This project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust.  For more information, please contact Dr Nicola Currie for more information:


Project Team:

Postdoctoral Researcher: Dr Nicola Currie, University of Edinburgh

Principal Investigator: Dr Sarah McGeown, University of Edinburgh

Co-Investigator: Professor Gemma Moss, Institute of Education, UCL


Project partners:

Katherine Wilkinson, Head of Research and Evaluation, Scottish Book Trust
Christina Clark, Head of Research, National Literacy Trust




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