State of children's reading

Despite concerns that not enough children read for pleasure, reports released this month in the UK and the US indicate that children's reading is thriving.

The reports coincide with figures from the publishing industry showing that children's book sales in the UK hit an all-time high in 2014, overtaking sales of adult fiction for the first time ever.

Children's print sales through Nielsen BookScan's Total Consumer Market were 336.5m, reported The Bookseller, up 9.1% year on year, and exceeding the previous highest figure of 329.7m achieved in 2009.

In the US, Scholastic's 'The State of Kids & Reading' report, published this month, found that among the 2,000 families involved in its research, 'Half of all children ages 6-17 (51%) are currently reading a book for fun and another one in five (20%) just finished one'.

Those figures are comparable to the UK where some 78% of children aged five to 16 years regularly read for pleasure, according to a new report from Childwise, which interviewed 2,000 families. It found that primary and secondary age children read for around the same time on average, with 5 to 10 year olds and 11 to 16 year olds both spend 0.6 hours a day reading. Nine to ten year olds read the most, spending nearly an hour a day reading.

Away from the headlines, however, there are still concerns that more needs to be done to encourage more children to read more. The Childwise report found that five to 16 year olds now spend slightly less time each day reading, down from 0.7 hours a day to half an hour.

The Scholastic report also highlighted the difference between children who are 'frequent readers' (those who read books for fun, five or more days a week) and those who are infrequent readers. Children aged six to 11 years who are frequent readers read just over 43 books per year, whereas infrequent readers in this age group read half that, 21 books annually. The differences are greater among children aged 12 to 17 years, with frequent readers reading nearly 40 books annually while infrequent readers reading fewer than five books per year.

The Scholastic report highlighted a number of predictors that children aged six to 17 years will read frequently. The most powerful predictors include:

o being more likely to rate themselves as "really enjoying reading"
o a strong belief that reading for fun is important and
o having parents who are frequent readers.

Children who are read to from an early age and who have less time online using a computer are also more likely to read frequently themselves.

Among older children aged 12 to 17 years, reading a book of choice in school, access to e-readers, having a large home library and parents involved in their reading habits, all help to ensure that children develop a reading habit.

The US report indicated that children would like to have more time to read independently at school with half of those who read independently as a class or school (52%) saying it was one of their favourite parts of the day, or that they wished it would happen more often.

The role of schools in reading for fun among children in lower-income homes was also highlighted. 61% percent of children aged six to 17 from the lowest-income homes said they read for fun mostly in school or equally at school and at home; that fell to 32% of those aged six to 17 from the highest-income homes.

Parents, too, were reminded of the importance of continuing to read aloud to children, even once they are considered 'readers' or 'too old' to be read to. When asked about being read to, more than eight in 10 children across age groups said they love(d) or like(d) it a lot, mainly because it was a special time with parents.

However, while half of children (54%) aged nought to five years were read aloud to at home five or more days a week, this declined to 34% of children aged six to eight years and to 17% of those aged nine to 11 years. Yet four in 10 children aged six to 11 years who were read books aloud at home said they wished their parents had continued reading aloud to them.

You can download the full report from Scholastic US, 'The State of Kids & Reading', here:

18/01/2015State of children's reading
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