School pupils in Northern Ireland have the highest level of reading comprehension in the UK, according to a new literacy survey.
The What Kids Are Reading Report 2020 found Scotland had slipped from the joint top spot with Northern Ireland last year to take joint second place along with England.
However, Scottish pupils climbed from the bottom ranking on reading more difficult books to take second place.
Reading practice and assessment provider Renaissance UK, which collected the data, has called on teachers and librarians to ensure pupils are reading books of an appropriate level to challenge them and enable progress.
The study analysed the reading habits of 1.1 million pupils across the UK and Ireland, and found those who read daily are nearly three times as likely to read above their expected level compared to peers who read less frequently.
Children who read for pleasure had better comprehension and read more frequently.
The survey also revealed the most popular books and authors among school pupils in the UK and Ireland, with JK Rowling once again taking the top seven places for primary school pupils with her Harry Potter series.
For most popular authors, Jeff Kinney, who wrote the Diary of A Wimpy Kid books, and David Walliams took first and second place respectively for both primary and secondary school children.
Roderick Hunt, author of The Magic Key series, came third for primary school pupils, while Roald Dahl took the third spot for the older children.
Dundee University’s Professor Keith Topping, who wrote the report, said: “Reading for pleasure is a vital component to literacy success but it is also important to encourage pupils to read more often and to pick books of appropriate reading difficulty for their age.
“The great news is that pupils’ favourite books tend to be of appropriate reading difficulty. It is important that teachers and librarians instil a love of reading in schools by encouraging lively classroom discussions with children about their favourite authors and titles.
“They should also be on hand to advise on books with appropriate challenge bespoke to the child’s interests. Parents can also play a role by encouraging children to read at home on a daily basis.”
Renaissance director of professional services James Bell said: “Literacy is key to a successful education and it is more important now than ever that our children are equipped with the reading skills they will need for educational attainment and for life.
“At Renaissance, we have long advocated the need for daily reading time to help foster a love of reading, which is greatly aided when children are reading books of appropriate difficulty.”