What did PIRLS tell us about reading skills?

Marian Sainsbury, Ian Schagen, Paula Hammond

13 June 2004

This paper reports on a study based on data obtained from the 2001 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) survey, details of which are outlined. PIRLS data was used to investigate patterns of achievement in separate reading skills in seven countries - England, Scotland, the US, New Zealand, Sweden, The Netherlands and France, with tests taken in each country’s national language. The aim was to identify patterns of performance in countries where children demonstrated significantly higher or lower specific reading skills than in other countries. The analysis is detailed and includes information in tabular form. Results are discussed at length and reveal only partial success, with much variability not accounted for by the reported analysis. Reasons for this are explored in some detail, focusing in part on complexities inherent in the PIRL assessment and difficulties in characterising reading skills across countries.