A study published in Reading Research Quarterly examined the effects of installing an in-class library providing students with age-appropriate books on student reading outcomes and achievements in rural China.
Most previous studies of the effects of age-appropriate books have been conducted in developed regions. However, in rural China, not only are age-appropriate reading materials scarce, but schools, teachers and parents also believe independent reading will negatively affect students’ performance in high-stakes college entrance examinations.
To examine the actual effects in rural China, Yi and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial consisting of 11,083 fourth- and fifth- grade students from 120 schools in Jiangxi province in China. In the treatment schools, an in-class library stocked with 70 extracurricular books was installed in each classroom in the treatment schools. The books were carefully selected based on recommendations of reading specialists and educators. Students received a baseline survey before the intervention and a follow-up survey after eight months’ intervention. Besides asking students about their attitudes toward reading and reading habits, students’ performance in Chinese language and math was evaluated, and an assessment made of their reading skills using test items from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). They found that:
- The in-class library significantly improved students’ reading habits after eight months. Students borrowed books more, read more, enjoyed reading more, and communicated more with their friends about reading.
- There were no significant effects on students’ performance in math and Chinese, despite the beliefs in China’s highly competitive system that independent reading would lower test scores.
- However, there was no significant effect on students’ reading achievement.
The authors suggested that the non-positive effects might be due to the book choices, short duration of the programme, and the fact that tasks were not assigned to teachers regarding the use of the in-class libraries. They suggested that the results highlighted the importance of providing age-appropriate reading resources to primary students in rural China.
Source: Yi, H., Mo,
D., Wang, H., Gao, Q., Shi, Y., Wu, P., … & Rozelle, S. (2018). Do
resources matter? Effects of an in‐class
library project on student independent reading habits in primary schools in
rural China. Reading Research Quarterly.
Advanced online publication. doi: 10.1002/rrq.238