Children and young people in the North East who read and write in their free time have significantly better mental wellbeing than their peers, according to the National Literacy Trust’s Mental wellbeing, reading and writing report. The charity works to raise literacy levels in Middlesbrough through its National Literacy Trust Hub, which is known locally as Middlesbrough Reads.
The report shows that children in the North East who are the most engaged with reading and writing outside school (i.e. those who enjoy it, do it daily and have positive attitudes towards it) have considerably better mental wellbeing than their peers who are the least engaged with reading and writing (Mental Wellbeing Index scores of 7.9 out of 10 vs 6.9 out of 10). What’s more, these children are twice as likely to have high mental wellbeing than their disengaged peers (40.1% vs 17.5%).
All schools in Middlesbrough have access to free wellbeing-inspired teaching resources for primary and secondary schools created by the National Literacy Trust and children’s mental health charity, Place2Be. This includes book lists and assembly plans, which will be available at middlesbroughreads.org.uk.
The charities have also created a series of top tips and activity ideas to help parents use reading and writing to support their child’s mental wellbeing: wordsforlife.org.uk/wellbeing.
The Mental wellbeing, reading and writing report, based on a survey of 49,047 UK school children aged 8 to 18, also found that nationally:
- Children who are the most engaged with reading and writing are much happier with their lives than children who are the least engaged (life satisfaction scores of 7.9/10 vs 4.7/10)
- As children transition from primary to secondary school, their levels of literacy engagement and mental wellbeing both decline and continue on this downward path
- Boys who are the most engaged with reading and writing have higher mental wellbeing than girls who are also very engaged (Mental Wellbeing Index scores of 8.1/10 vs 7.6/10)
The charity also explored the link between reading skills and mental wellbeing, finding that children in the UK with above expected reading skills are three times more likely to have high mental wellbeing than their peers with below expected reading skills (40.3% vs 13.1%) .
Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, said: “Children and young people today face a multitude of pressures at school, at home and in their social lives. It is imperative that we do everything we can to enable our children to develop the resilience they need to cope with life’s challenges – and our latest research shows that the joys of reading and writing can be hugely beneficial. Not only does a love of reading and writing enable children to flourish at school, but we now also know it can play a vital role in supporting children to lead happy and healthy lives.”
Catherine Roche, Chief Executive of Place2Be said: “Escaping in a good story is not only a great way to cope when you’re feeling stressed or worried, but can also be a fantastic opportunity for children to explore difficult feelings, understand them, and feel less alone. We often use characters and stories in our group work in schools to encourage children to explore their own feelings and behaviours. Whether you relate to Harry Potter or the Hulk, if we want to help children to build their resilience and cope with life’s inevitable challenges, spending time with your child and encouraging a love of reading and writing is a good place to start.”
Allison Potter, Manager of the National Literacy Trust Hub in Middlesbrough said: “For the last five years, we’ve delivered a range of events and activities in Middlesbrough to inspire children to enjoy reading and writing. This exciting new research shows the important link this has to children’s wellbeing, as well as their success at school. We hope that schools across the town will utilise our wellbeing-themed teaching resources, which show pupils how they can look after themselves and feel better by reading.”