Education policy damages reading for pleasure

The government is not doing enough to encourage reading for
pleasure amongst children, according to 82% of UK primary school teachers who took part in research by children's publisher, Egmont UK.

The study also reveals teachers believe a fall in the number of school librarians, a lack of parental support and a rise in screen time have contributed to increasing pressures on reading for pleasure for school-age children over the past decade.

The findings were published as part of Egmont UK's study Reading Street: Reading and School, to better understand the changing nature of children's reading.

While many of the teachers surveyed said they wanted to focus more on reading for pleasure because they understand its importance, they felt their hands were tied by the emphasis on reading skills, time pressures and restrictions in the curriculum.

Two-thirds (66%) of teachers cited lack of time as a major barrier to being able to properly develop a pupil's love of reading.

Teachers also pointed to government policy as a major factor in the decline of reading for pleasure. Over half (58%) of teachers said they have seen a decline in reading for pleasure during the course of their career, particularly in the last decade, with four in five teachers citing government policy as responsible for this trend.

72% of teachers surveyed said the curriculum's emphasis on reading as a skill to be mastered rather than reading for enjoyment is affecting their pupils' development of a love for reading.

Nearly half (48%) of the teachers said their school does not draw a distinction between encouraging parents to read for pleasure with their children and doing homework, such as practicing their reading skills.

The pressure from school to master the skill of reading is further, unwittingly, compounded by parents, who focus on learning and not storytelling, the study has also found. Only 2% of teachers estimate the majority of their pupils are read to on a daily basis by their parents yet 95% of teachers believe that parents are the biggest influencers on children reading for pleasure.

In addition, the study found that once children can read fairly competently, parents take a step back from their child's reading. This tends to coincide with Key Stage 2 (age seven or eight). Those parents who see reading as a skill to master feel the job is done when their child has grasped the mechanics of it.

Parents' own confidence is also believed to be an issue by half (51%) of the teachers. There is a broad awareness that some parents lack confidence in supporting their child's reading, especially as many didn't learn phonics. So at this point, typically when their child reaches age 7, they tend to step back, hand over to the school and their involvement drops steeply.

"We found a real love of reading among teachers, and a strong desire to encourage more children to read for pleasure, however we found that teachers had an overwhelming sense of frustration with their situation," said Rob McMenemy, Senior VP Egmont. "While most of the teachers we surveyed believe that parents are the biggest influencers on children's reading, they also understand the pressures that parents are under."

Teachers also point to a growing challenge to reading for pleasure from the increase in digital devices. Over half (52%) point to digital media as a barrier to developing a love of reading, with 70% who said it is more of an issue for boys than girls.

However, while digital media may be affecting childrenís reading time at home, only 19% of teachers believe that it is an insurmountable problem. Most teachers think reading for pleasure can co-exist with the digital world and are adamant children can still be encouraged to be enthusiastic readers.

The study also showed everyone has the opportunity to love reading with 65% of teachers believing reading is taught and not innate. Teachers unanimously agreed parents and schools need to work together to encourage children to become enthusiastic readers.

- Some 250 primary teachers across the UK were surveyed for this report, including those at state schools, independent and private schools and academies. 52% of those surveyed are classroom teachers with other roles including assistant head, deputy head, subject coordinator and head of department.

24/06/2013Education policy damages reading for pleasure
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