Survey Shows Fewer Children Reading for Pleasure and Why This is a Bad Thing

Scholastic Books and YouGov conducted a poll asking 2,558 parents and children on how often the children read for pleasure and the results are not good. The report is long but I picked the results which I think are most important and in some cases most troubling.

Problem 1: Roughly 54% of children ages 0-5 are read to at home 5-7 days a week. But only 34% of kids 6-8 have their parents read to them as frequently, and this drops to 17% for kids 9-11.

Some will say the kids don’t want to be with their parents. WRONG! 83% of the kids surveyed said they “loved” or “liked” when parents read to them, and 40% said they wished their parents had continued reading aloud to them. Given the high number of children who like the quality time with their parents, why do so many parents stop when the child turns six?

Schools have a huge influence on reading for pleasure but few schools really set aside time to do this. I remember being in school and getting reading assignments. Most of the books weren’t that interesting though there were some times when I was able to read in class. 52% of children surveyed said reading in school is one of their favorite parts of the day but only 33% of children have this option available.

For children from low-income homes, 61% said they read for fun mostly in school or equally at school and at home, while 32% of kids ages 6–17 from the highest-income homes say the same.

Problem 2: boys do not read as often as girls. Some of this is perceived to be genetics (girls and women are usually better at reading and writing and verbal language) but I will venture that many books just don’t appeal to boys as much as girls. Note the decline from 2010 to 2014 for both boys and girls, but especially boys:

Problem 3: More time on screens means less time reading. Screen time is increasing

 OK so what we conclude? There is a huge drop-off by parents both a) reading to kids past age 6 and b) parents themselves reading a lot. Now 5-7 nights a week might be tough for most people so I won’t go so far as to say that’s the gold standard. But let’s agree at least 2 nights a week, and at least 2 nights a week with kids, would probably help most children (especially those disinclined to read on their own).

It should not be a surprise that kids whose parents are more involved and who go to schools where literacy is encouraged are more likely to do better in school and in life. We know many children, particularly children in lower-income households, are unlikely to have one of those factors, let alone both, and thus reading for pleasure declines. One graph I did not feature shows a decline for children from wealthier backgrounds also don’t read as much, perhaps spending too much time on screens.

Here is a graph from the Annie E. Casey Foundation on reading proficiency for 4th graders. The Foundation has long-term data on their website showing the correlation between children who cannot read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade and those most likely to end up incarcerated.

Saturday is National Readathon Day #timetoread. With no football on I’ll make sure to read at least one chapter of something. I will have a special post for Saturday on this topic and the book I will read.

  • Last Call: Most children read books by print rather than e-books.

read the full survey here


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