Grade 4 students across Canada are reading better than most of their counterparts in 44 other countries around the world, according to the latest edition of an international education report released Tuesday.

Average reading achievement test scores for Canadian students ranked behind results from just seven countries, including Hong Kong, Russia, Finland, Singapore and the United States.

In its "Progress in International Reading Literacy Study" (PIRLS) report, the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement noted the Canada-wide score was well above the centrepoint of its scale.

Breaking the results down by province, the report found: "In relation to the Canadian average, British Columbia performed above the Canadian average, while Ontario, Nova Scotia, Alberta, and Newfoundland and Labrador performed at the Canadian average. The average scores for Quebec and New Brunswick French are significantly lower than that of Canada overall.”

Other highlights of the Canadian results for 2011 include:

  • Students enrolled in English-language schools are outperforming those enrolled in French-language schools.
  • Canadian girls are outpacing boys in reading performance, mirroring the pattern seen in all participating countries. But boys who say they enjoy reading perform as well as girls.
  • Approximately half of students in Canada are reaching the study's highest performance benchmark, beating the average ratio internationally. And Canada also has a smaller percentage of low achievers compared with other countries.
  • Positive relationships exist between reading ability and levels of confidence, engagement during lessons and time spent with books outside school.
  • Students can get too much of a good thing, however, as those who did little or no homework each day scored better than those who did more.

The report also notes the "indisputable importance" of parents setting the example for their children

"Internationally, as well as in Canada, students whose parents say they like reading performed much better than those whose parents do not like reading."

The study also points out some factors limiting teachers' ability to instruct their students including "lack of prior knowledge and skills".

"Interestingly, a number of Canadian teachers also find that many students do not come to school ready to learn because of a lack of sleep or a lack of basic nutrition."

The study is based on the results of tests administered to some 325,000 students in 45 countries, including 23,000 Canadian students in approximately 1,000 schools.

The IEA is a consortium of research institutions in 60 countries that has administered the PIRLS every five years since 2001.

While Quebec and Ontario have been on board since then, this is the first report to include Canada-wide results.