Mental wellbeing, reading and writing: How children and young people’s mental wellbeing is related to their reading and writing experiences

Author(s):*Listed Alphabetically
Clark C, Teravainen-Goff A

Year of Publication:

National Literacy Trust

Publication Type:


As part of their annual literacy survey in 2017-18, the National Literacy Trust asked pupils questions about three aspects of mental wellbeing: life satisfaction; coping skills; self-belief. Mental wellbeing mean scores were broken down by gender, age group, free school meal uptake and ethnic background. Differences by regions were also explored.

The results were then analysed in terms of a potential link between mental wellbeing and specific components of literacy, such as: reading and writing enjoyment; reading and writing behaviours; pupils’ self-perception of themselves as readers and writers; their attitudes towards reading and writing.

Overall, the report shows a link between mental wellbeing and reading and writing enjoyment and attitudes; however, it is perhaps not as strong as could be expected.

The report found that children who read below the level expected of their age have lower mental wellbeing scores than peers who read above expected levels. However, the study also showed that once other variables, such as enjoyment, attitudes and behaviours are taken into account, only reading and enjoyment and attitudes have a relationship with mental wellbeing. Reading skill is not a significant predictor.

Across all the analyses, reading and writing attitudes are the components that are most strongly associated with mental wellbeing. This might suggest that children and young people who feel positively about life in general are also more likely to feel positive about certain aspects of it, such as how they feel about reading and writing. However, it also might highlight that a positive learning environment is important for wellbeing: it is possible that children who have positive experiences of reading and writing in the classroom feel better about their ability, which, in turn, creates positive attitudes and motivation towards the activity, and thereby enforces more positive attitudes in general and therefore higher wellbeing.

The lack of association between frequency of reading and writing and mental wellbeing might suggest that content, rather than the actual act of reading or writing, is linked to improved wellbeing outcomes. Future research into mental wellbeing and literacy could benefit from using a wider variety of mental wellbeing variables.

Evidence Type: Survey

Main Focus: Mental Health

Research Purpose: Discussion / Debate

Context: Education

Art Forms: Literature

Access Type: Free Download

APA Citation:

Clark, C. and Teravainen-Goff, A. (2018). Mental wellbeing, reading and writing. London: National Literacy Trust.