Children’s reading as a hobby: facilitators, barriers and benefits for mental wellbeing

Project summary

Leisure reading may positively affect children’s mental wellbeing. The objectives of this PhD project are:

Leisure reading can have positive effects on cognitive, social and emotional functioning. It is not surprising that it has been widely promoted, especially in times of COVID-19, see The Guardian (2019), World Book Day activities by children authors, and Dr Sigrid Lipka’s contribution to Harper’s Bazaar online magazine September 2020.

While many adults read for leisure, evidence on the prevalence of children’s leisure reading is mixed and children might miss out on potential benefits. A key aspect of mental wellbeing is the ability to take someone else’s perspective, also referred to as ‘mentalising’ or Theory of Mind. Recent studies confirmed the efficacy of leisure reading on mentalising abilities. As research tends to focus on adults, there is a gap in our knowledge about the link between children’s leisure reading and their mental wellbeing. This PhD project will tackle this gap in three ways:

Stakeholder consultation and collaboration will occur throughout, extending our connections with regional partners. The findings will inform recommendations to schools and educational policy makers, thus creating positive impact on children’s reading habits and promoting beneficial effects of leisure reading. The project has the potential to complement the impact created by colleagues’ children’s books

This PhD project supports a new multidisciplinary collaboration focussing on children’s leisure reading, initiated by Psychologists Associate Professor Dr Sigrid Lipka, Dr Sophie Jackson and Dr Dominic Petronzi, and Rebecca Petronzi, Lecturer in Primary Teacher Education. The PhD student will be supervised by Sigrid, Sophie and Dominic, and will benefit from educational advice by Rebecca.

Research centre

Health and Social Care Research Centre

Entry requirements

For our PhD programmes, we normally expect you to have a first-class or upper-second (2:1) honours degree accredited by the British Psychological Society or a related subject area.

International students may also need to meet our English language requirements. Find out more about our entry requirements for international students

Project-specific requirements must align with the University’s standard requirements.

How to apply

Please contact Dr Sigrid Lipka ( in the first instance for an informal discussion about this PhD project and for more information on how to apply.

The University has four starting points each year for MPhil/PhD programmes (September, January, March and June). Applications should be made at least three months before you would want to start your programme. Please note that, if you require a visa, additional time will be required. 


Self-funded by student. There is a range of options that may be available to you to help you fund your PhD.