One In Five Children Haven't Picked Up A Book In The Past Year
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A new report from publisher Farshore, a division of Harper Collins UK, has revealed that reading for pleasure is on the decline, with one in five children aged between 0-17 not partaking at all in 2021. Whilst reading is a large part of the school curriculum, the benefits of simply reading for pleasure are not widely known.
Reading for pleasure helps to nurture children and helps their progression – in fact, progress in vocabulary, spelling and maths is four times greater if parents read daily than if the parents have a degree. Reading for pleasure also helps to maintain good mental health, with 76% of children who report high mental wellbeing thinking positively about reading. Reading can be a fantastic form of escapism, and children used it as a coping mechanism throughout the pandemic, with 48% of children preferring to read fiction to escape everyday stresses.
The Reading for Pleasure and Purpose report, published by Farshore, has shown that children are increasingly turning away from books for enjoyment. Almost one fifth (20%) of parents say that their child prefers to do something else before bed than reading, and 64% of those aged under 17 would rather watch TV, play video games, or go online than read books. With the numbers declining year-on-year, just a quarter of children now read daily or nearly every day, compared to 38% in 2012.
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Often, parents may see reading as a ‘skill’ that needs to be learned at a certain age for educational purposes, not to be continued for enjoyment into later life. In turn, children can often relate reading to homework, increasing the chances of them turning to other activities. Some parents see reading as being for purpose rather than pleasure. But if their child discovers a love of reading and is read to by their parent, the educational outcomes will naturally follow.
The report has positioned parents as ‘enablers of reading’ – with a focus on how reading aloud to children from an early age can help progression and positive mental wellbeing. Allowing children to choose what they read and have read to them and ensuring they have a wide choice of reading material can also help to promote reading for pleasure. As well as this, it helps families to stay connected, and reduces the risk of children misinterpreting information later in life, especially in the age of fake news and how hectic the world seems to have become.
Children are more likely to be read to between the ages of 3 and 4, but even then, only half are read to daily. The report showed that children who are read to daily/nearly every day are much more likely to read themselves daily, and around two thirds of 5- to 13-year-olds do so when they are read to this often at home.
The report also showed that when children are allowed to make their own reading choices, they become more invested and are more likely to commit. Whilst easily instilled at home, it can be more challenging when following a curriculum at school, but this is beginning to change with the implementation of the new reading framework.
A key point raised in the report is wide choice and variety of reading material needs to be made available to children. Inclusion and diversity are vital for children, and it’s important for them to be able to see themselves and others in the material that they are reading.
Jamila Gavin, author of Coram Boy and Wheel of Surya, said:
“It is in books that we can see our lives mirrored, and our concerns or hopes and ambitions expressed through exciting fiction, or histories, or myths and legends. What we also hope, is that it is through books and the written word, via a kind of osmosis, that children especially, can develop and extend their vocabulary, their sense of how words and sentences work; how characters develop and differ. Reading can provide the very foundation of good communication, an irreplaceable skill when going out into the world of work. Most of all, the book becomes a friend as no other, and we should all help to make reading feel accessible and fun.”
Smriti Halls, picture book author of Who Are You?, Elephant in My Kitchen and I’m Sticking with You, Rain Before Rainbows and former BookTrust Writer in Residence, added:
“These findings are so important and I think it’s impossible to stress enough the value of reading aloud with and to children of ALL ages. This is reading for PLEASURE. It’s about capturing JOY and LAUGHTER, EXCITEMENT and FUN. And, quite apart from the clear educational benefits which hugely raise literacy levels and improve life chances, reading together at home provides a space for children to explore feelings and emotions, build confidence, deepen relationships within families… and create memories that last a lifetime.”
Farshore’s Consumer Insight Director, Alison David, comments:
“Over the last ten years children have been spending more time on screen and less time reading. 67% of parents wish their child would spend more time reading books and many struggle to know what to do, but in reality, changing behaviour is really very easy. Simply reading aloud to children, regularly, transforms their ideas about reading. When 5-13s are read to daily, 65% of them are so enthused that they choose to read daily themselves. We’ve found many parents don’t know what a huge difference they can make and we are determined to change that.”