The Reading Agency has published its long-awaited Reading Outcomes Framework. This tool is designed to ‘help improve impact evaluation across the sector…..It will help you understand, demonstrate and improve the impact of your activity to encourage reading. It will support you to make the case for investment and advocate for your work by outlining existing evidence about the outcomes of reading and providing guidance about collecting evidence about the impact your work makes.’ (Laura Venning, Reading Agency, Evaluation and Impact Research Manager). It is freely available to use across education, health and charities sectors. The toolkit is the end of the first phase and the Reading Agency asks anyone using it to give them feedback.
It includes a succinct one page framework of the outcomes of reading for pleasure and empowerment, sample survey questions which evaluate whether a project has impact on these outcomes and reference evidence about demonstrating how reading relates to these outcomes. The report and evaluation toolkit form a solid 72 pages, but it is well worth reading through it.
I have been interested in impact evaluation for a couple of years now and have developed some templates for Tower Hamlets SLS. This toolkit is a most valuable addition to the subject. Measuring reading for pleasure is notoriously difficult and potentially mainly anecdotal and subjective. This toolkit could contribute to producing measurable outcomes that can be used as advocacy.
The framework outlines four stages of analysis of a reading project from the ‘activity to encourage reading for pleasure and empowerment’ to potential reading impact outcomes. These may have a positive impact on health and wellbeing, intellectual outcomes, personal outcomes and social outcomes. These in turn lead to wider positive impact on cultural, economic and societal areas.
The survey questions are very detailed and are broadly similar to the ones used by the National Literacy Trust to evaluate their projects with children, such as Premier League Reading Stars and also The Reading Agency’s Chatterbooks book clubs . I have used this questionnaire myself with primary school children and, with guidance, it produces useful information and, if used before and after the project, potentially provides useful impact evaluation data. To be of greater value though you need to assess the continued impact some time later. The survey can also be used with other stakeholders.
The most interesting sections for me are the analysis tools and the references. As someone with no statistical background, I will be studying these to improve my skills.
Full details and links to the framework, the toolkit and an interactive version are at: https://readingagency.org.uk/news/blog/reading-outcomes-framework-toolkit.html
Lucy Chambers, SLG National Committee