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Hidden PIRLS – what else do the data reveal?

The results of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) make headlines with each release. But what else can the data tell us about Australia’s relationship with reading, asks Sue Thomson in Teacher.

PIRLS is a large-scale comparison of the reading performance of Year 4 students in 50 countries, and Year 4 was chosen because it is the point in schooling where most students transition from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’. As the essential nature of their relationship with reading naturally changes, it becomes important to monitor not only students’ progress but also how they feel about reading. Do they enjoy it? Do they think they learn from it? Do they read for fun?

In her first column for Teacher, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) Deputy CEO (Research) Dr Sue Thomson looks at what else PIRLS results reveal about Australia’s relationship with reading.

The Students Like Reading scale of PIRLS summarises student responses to eight questions about how often they participate in and how much they enjoy reading. Figure 1 shows that students who very much like reading scored significantly higher in reading, on average, than those who somewhat like reading, who in turn scored higher on average than students who do not like reading. This pattern was also mirrored in gender findings, with both girls (51 per cent) and boys (35 per cent) who reported a very high enjoyment of reading performing significantly better at it than their peers who enjoyed it less, while girls performed better than boys overall. Boys (21 per cent) were more likely than girls (12 per cent) to say they do not like reading.

Figure 1: The Students Like Reading scale and Year 4 student achievement in reading, Australia and the International average.

Read the full article in Teacher. ■

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About the author

Dr Sue Thomson is the Deputy CEO (Research) at ACER, as well as the Head of Educational Monitoring and Research and the Director of ACER's Australian Surveys research program. 

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