The Love to Read project: Inspiring and sustaining a love of book reading

Books can offer a powerful portal into another world; a chance for children to explore, learn, relax, laugh, and spend time with fictional friends. However, not all children enjoy reading, or choose to read. The Love to Read project, funded by Nuffield Foundation, seeks to inspire and sustain a love of book reading among all children (aged 9-11), and draws upon the knowledge, expertise and insights of many: children, teachers, researchers and other experts working together.

Key to this project are the opinions, experiences and insights from children. In the first phase of the project, we are interviewing 60 children from 3-4 primary schools, with very mixed reading attitudes and experiences, to learn more about their book reading experiences (both positive and negative), and their ideas for classroom practices which would encourage them, and their peers, to read and enjoy reading more.

In the second phase of the project, we will share children’s opinions and ideas, and relevant theory and research, with a group of six primary school teachers to co-design the Love to Read resource. This phase of the project ensures the resource draws upon teachers’ professional and pedagogical knowledge, expertise and experience. During co-design, we will ask teachers, specifically recruited for this project, to work with us to create classroom-based activities to embed the following research-informed principles into practice:

Access: Children have (regular and easy) access to books at school that align with their reading habits and interests.
Choice: Children have choice over their independent reading activities and that schools have the structure, and children have the skills, to ensure ‘good’ (i.e., skill and interest aligned) reading choices.
Relevance: Children can access books and book reading activities, which are personally relevant, and relevant to their reading goals.
Time: Structure regular quality time for children to read books (they engage with) in school and at home.
Social: Provide time, activities and the skills for children to be able to share and discuss books with peers and others.
Success: Children have a broad range of positive and successful reading experiences, and recognise their growing success as readers.

These principles have been drawn from an extensive body of research in this area (McGeown & Wilkinson, 2021), yet we have a poor understanding of the most effective ways to embed these principles into classroom practice. Once the resource has been created, we will evaluate it across six primary schools, examining changes in children’s reading motivation and engagement, but also seeking to understand children’s and teachers’ experiences and opinions of the resource, before making revisions based on their input. The Love to Read resource will be freely available from March 2023. We are delighted to have the opportunity to work so closely with children and teachers throughout the project, and also have the support and expertise of individuals working within key literacy organisations, including National Literacy Trust, Scottish Book Trust and Education Scotland, as they partner with us on this project.

Members of the Love to read team Sarah McGeown and Katherine Wilkinson have recently written a UKLA minibook: Inspiring and sustaining reading for pleasure in children and young people. The minibook is written for teachers and school leadership teams and is packed full of research insights, in addition to practical ways to inspire a love of reading across different school contexts. You can purchase the minibook here.

If you are interested in learning more about the Love to Read project, you can visit our website: or contact Emily to receive monthly newsletter updates:

Love to Read project team: Sarah McGeown (Principal Investigator), Emily Oxley (Postdoctoral researcher), Christina Clark (Director of Research, National Literacy Trust), Megan Dixon (Headteacher – England), Helen Fairlie (Senior Education Officer, Education Scotland), Katrina Lucas (Teacher – Scotland), Jessie Ricketts (Co-I, Royal Holloway), Laura Shapiro (Co-I, Aston University), Katherine Wilkinson (Head of Research and Evaluation, Scottish Book Trust).

Love to Read Expert Advisory Group: Our project is supported by a fantastic expert advisory group, appointed due to their expert knowledge in this area. The group includes Professor Teresa Cremin, James Clements and Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold.


Sarah McGeown is Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology at the University of Edinburgh and Principal Investigator on the Love to Read project. You can learn about her research projects here.