Reading Time: 2 minutes

The international annual ‘What Kids Are Reading Report’ from learning and assessment provider Renaissance Learning reveals how reading habits for children in the UAE during the pandemic saw both an improvement in their reading skills and a marked uplift in their reading enjoyment levels.

The study of over 24,000 pupils across the UAE demonstrates how reading skills in some countries improved over lockdown periods, with many children picking up longer books of greater difficulty, in line with the UAE’s efforts to spark the passion for knowledge across all society.  

Better reading

According to the study, the number of books read overall increased by 23 percent compared to the previous year. When opting to read, children were inclined to pick up more challenging books for their age, choosing books that were longer and increasingly more comprehensive. Primary school students, and those up to year seven in particular improved their reading levels by reading more demanding texts.

Favourite books and authors

During the first lockdown Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K Rowling topped the leader boards of the favourite books for secondary and primary school pupils respectively. David Walliams and Jeff Kinney became even more popular. J. K. Rowling made a very substantial re-appearance with more primary school pupils selecting the Harry Potter series again, while Roald Dahl sustained his popularity.

From 2020 to 2021 there was little change in favourite authors overall, Jeff Kinney, David Walliams, R.J Palacio and Roald Dahl remained popular.

Chief Product Officer at Renaissance, Todd Brekhus, said: “Lockdown was difficult for many children, especially when schools were closed and they could not access school libraries or see their friends. At Renaissance, we took steps to support teachers during the uncertainty of school closures, so it is pleasing to see this year’s report emphasise the importance and benefit of reading on academic achievement and wellbeing.

He continued, “Many students were given access to myON Reader, a personalised digital library from Renaissance that enables students to choose from recommendations based on their interests and reading levels and year groups. Knowing that reading helped younger children feel better throughout the pandemic is very encouraging. It is promising to see that when pupils have more choice many chose a more challenging book and one that perhaps allows for more escapism.

Brekhus concluded, “At Renaissance, we have long advocated for dedicated time to read, and for the importance of schools to encourage a love of reading among pupils; whether it’s a favourite author recommended by peers, a non-fiction book about a hobby they enjoy or a timeless classic. This report highlights how important it is that everyone has access to books and what schools need to do to re-engage children with reading for enjoyment while giving them space and time to read more.”

The ‘What Kids Are Reading Report’ was written using Renaissance data analysed by University of Dundee academic Professor Keith Topping.

A copy of the full report can be found here: