Reading for Pleasure

The Importance of Reading for Pleasure by Wayne Mills, founder and quizmaster of Kids Lit Quiz™.

2012 World Final, Auckland, New Zealand

Over the 22 or so years I've been running the Kids' Lit Quiz, I've found that the students who get the most out of the Quiz have tended to be those who read widely for pleasure. This happens at every level of the competition from regional heats to the world final - whether or not their team goes on to the next level.

Those of us involved with the Quiz measure its success by the number of kids whose love of reading is enhanced and extended by their participation.

Only one team from each heat can win and, as in all sport, an element of luck as well as knowledge and an ability to perform in competition conditions determines the winning team. However, over the years, I've talked to many, many children after each competition who go home curious and excited about new books and wanting to re-read others mentioned in the course of the competition - regardless of their team's result on the day. Any disappointment is soon replaced by an eagerness to discover new books to read. These are the children who read for pleasure.

Although the Quiz is a literary competition, it is mostly about inspiring and motivating kids to read. During the Quiz, I constantly cajole kids to read and am always recommending titles and authors to them. Questions are asked of adults in the audience as well so that children see their parents are readers too.

The Quiz asks 100 questions arranged into ten categories. Children answer questions on arranged themes such as myths & legends, animals, graphic novels, the classics, contemporary etc. This, in turn, encourages wide reading and also activates what is known as the Matthew Effect (Stanovich, 2008) – the more one reads the better (s)he becomes.

The book chats and discussions held by the ‘club’ associated with the Kids’ Lit Quiz further reinforces reading as a valued activity, as does the encouragement kids get at home. This support is both tangible and intangible. Children are able to discuss their reading interests with like-minded adults and also have it reinforced by the pleasure they each derive from sharing books (Harrington, 2009).

Teams that perform well in the Quiz tend to be those whose members have wide-ranging and varied reading interests - although I'm yet to meet a participant who isn't an expert on Harry Potter!

Children retain information better when it is information they care about and diversity in reading interests between team members is encouraged. The Quiz discourages a “cramming” approach – where kids feel they have to read every book ever written to do well and then become disheartened when they can't remember the dull ones.  It's why there's no reading list. The kids, in turn, understand that the Quiz questions genuinely test whether they read for pleasure.

Without a reading list, kids are guided by their own reading interests - they set their own reading pace, decide when and where they’re going to read and from their ‘own free will anticipate the satisfaction that they will get from the act of reading’ (Nat Lit Trust, 2006).

The freedom to select their own books, read from a huge range and without restraints (although that may be imposed by the school or family) is hugely self-motivating. As Pennac (2006) states, all books need to be seen as being acceptable with both good and bad books co-existing side-by-side. As their reading matures, kids become aware of their tastes and preferences, able to differentiate between good and bad literature, even as they read – and enjoy - both.

The Kids’ Lit Quiz™ is deliberately structured so that both individuals and teams are rewarded, so in this sense it is like a sport. Those students able to answer a tough question from a previous world final win instant cash prizes while the team that wins a round or a heat receives either books or book vouchers. The overall winning team in each country has the opportunity to proceed to an international final.  Marinak (2003) found that book rewards do not undermine a child's motivation to read (as prizes which are unrelated to reading may).

Having supporters come along to watch the competition is intrinsically rewarding, as it is also extrinsically motivating for the children to sense their supporters’ interest in how well they perform.

The more pleasure kids get and receive from reading, the more it impacts positively upon their reading experiences. Thus self-efficacy and an active interest in reading will result in better recall and comprehension (Guthrie et al, 2007).  In the Quiz, students respond positively to both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations and to combinations of each (Lepper & Henderlong, 2000).

The Kids’ Lit Quiz™ blends material and invisible rewards in an exciting yet safe environment, fostering a love of reading and recognising that reading in the twenty-first century has never been more important.


Clark, Christina. & Rumbold, Kate. (2006) Reading for Pleasure. National Literacy Trust. London, England

Guthrie, J. T., Laurel, A., Hoa, W., Wigfield, A. and Tonks, S. T. (2007) Reading motivation and reading comprehension growth in the later elementary years. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 32, pp282-313.

Harrington, C. (2009). What Grows an Avid Reader? An investigation into the motivational factors that impact on the reading habits of students in the 11-13 age range.Thesis, Charles Sturt University, Australia

Lepper, M.R. & Henderlong, J. (2000). Turning play into work and work into play: 25 years of research on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. In C. Sansone & J.M Harackiewicz (Eds), Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: The search for opyimal motivation and performance (pp257-307). San Diego: Academic Press.

Marinak, B. (2003). What Sustains Engagement in Reading? Presentation at the National Reading Conference, Phoenix, AZ (Dec, 2003)

Pennac, Daniel. (2006). The Rights of the Reader. London, England: Walker Books