Literacy: Fewer children reading in spare time, research suggests

Boy reading Reading is most popular among eight to 11-year-olds, the survey suggests

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Fewer children across the UK are reading in their own time and one in five is embarrassed to be caught with a book, a survey suggests.

Just over a quarter of 35,000 children from 188 schools told the National Literacy Trust that they read outside of school.

About the same number said they did not think their parents cared if they read.

The trust says a similar survey in 2005 found one in three children read in their own time.

The survey for the trust involved children filling in online questionnaires last winter.

Half of those taking part said they enjoyed reading either "very much" or "quite a lot" and a high proportion (four out of five) agreed with the statement "the more I read, the better I become".

Nearly two in five agreed reading was "cool", but about one in three said they only read when they had to.

'Literacy heroes' search

Report author Christina Clark, from the Literacy Trust, said young people who enjoyed reading very much were four times as likely to read above the level expected for their age compared with those who did not enjoy reading at all.

Those who read outside of class every day were five times as likely to read above the expected level compared with those who never did.

Start Quote

I firmly believe in the importance of igniting a passion for reading in the next generation”

End Quote Duchess of Cornwall

And children who do not think "reading is cool" were four times more likely to be below-average readers, the report says.

National Literacy Trust director Jonathan Douglas said: "Our research not only reveals that children are reading less and developing more negative attitudes towards reading, but also that there is a clear correlation between this and their performance in reading tests."

The study, of children aged from eight to 16, found that the proportion who read e-books outside of school had doubled since 2010 to 12%.

Reading is most popular among eight to 11-year-olds, the survey suggests, although teenagers are more likely to read for longer.

The charity released the research to coincide with a new campaign to find the UK's "literacy heroes".

It is asking the public to name people who might have inspired a love of books or helped to improve reading skills.

Anyone from a parent, teacher or young person who has overcome a personal literacy problem to a favourite author or celebrity can be nominated, the Literacy Trust said.

The campaign is being supported by the Duchess of Cornwall, who said: "I firmly believe in the importance of igniting a passion for reading in the next generation.

"In a world where the written word competes with so many other calls on our attention, we need more literacy heroes to keep inspiring young people to find the pleasure and power of reading for themselves."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 218.


    I agree about there being too much parent-led activities. Hubby often worries about my stepdaughter not having enough to do and boredom is seen as a really big deal.

    I see his perspective in that there is a lot of depression amongst kids, but I grew up in the country with all my friends miles away and I loved my own company. I would paint, draw, write, read and it was good for me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    204 Feel The Magic - As others have mentioned, Roald Dahl is a must-read for all kids, not least because of the excellent illustrations. I pretty much learned to read through his books. Very good for transitioning between being read to & reading.
    "Lamb to the Slaughter" was also one of the few highlights of high school English.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    198. billbi - "I don't see the use of other media sources as well as books to share content as Dumbing Down per se."

    I think you missed my point again.

    I didn't actually say that, I said 'if the 'popular' change is negative', IF being the important point. IF the change is negative, then those unchanged are at an advantage.

    And frankly I'd give that one eyed v blind thing a go anytime

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    shame really. My two love books pull them out every day but I guess some people think its easier to leave there kids glued to game console while they slink of for a me me me time. education is the key to success not an xbox or play station people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    I love reading non-fiction such as technical articles/books, hobby/pastime books and the news. We should not expect everyone to enjoy reading novels, poetry and biographies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    There are some wonderful headlines on BBC

    "Man shares bungalow with crocodile", "What is chess boxing?", "Afghanistan reach first world cup", "Tongue Sandpaper"

    These are important things that are being ignored on HYS.

    Instead we are offered Emma2, or children don't read books (such as Emma).

    Priorities BBC - after all, we licence payers are funding such in-depth reporting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    207 James

    'but at least back then the media wasn't actively promoting that sort of culture.'

    The meeja is just giving the punters what they want. If the viewers wanted high culture TV programming then that's what they'd be watching.

    It's like blaming The Sun for having Page 3 girls. If readers don't want Page 3 girls then they'll buy The Grauniad.

    We are surrounded by morons. Morons who vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    204. Feel The Magic

    All things Roald Dahl, Dick King-Smith for younger readers, and if they have favourite tv programmes there are even plenty of story books as spin offs (Daddy Pig's Old Chair still raises a smile).

    We recently started the Narnia series as bedtime reading (my original 40yr old copy) - my 7 yr old 'cheats' and starts reading the next chapter when I leave the room :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    Literature and technology have integrated so well.

    I love the fact that I can carry a library around with me on my tablet whilst having access to an endless reference source on the same device.

    Still cant beat turning the pages of a bloody good book though !

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    I loved reading as a kid until I got my hands on a ZX Spectrum, after that I only read when I had to at school. People can deny the influence of gadgets, but it's simply the truth that gadgets provide a bigger pull than books, and since a lot of books get turned into films, they can simply make do with the less time consuming option, then get back to their games or Twittery twaddle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    178.Konrad Curze

    I was saying the exact same just last week!

    Science and creativity are not enemies but vital allies. People always bleat about the 'point' of creative subjects at school, but the point is to think outside the box and see the world in different ways.

    All well and good if you know the equations, better if you can come up with new ones!

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    @190. jgm2
    "It was cool to be thick 40 years ago. I grew up in Birmingham and if I hadn't been handy with my fists I'd have been battered for being a 'swot' at primary school."

    That may well be true, but at least back then the media wasn't actively promoting that sort of culture. In those days it was nothing more than jealously and poor parenting. Now it has become a true cult of ignorance .

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    I play an online game called Guild Wars 2 and recently saw a discussion among members where one person said he hated reading.

    The overwhelming response from other members (mostly teenage males) was that books are great & he didn't know what he was missing.

    They they went on to ask about his interests and suggested various titles/genres he may like.

    Doesn't sound like they have an issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.


    Ohh, the Famouse Five. I gave my God Daughter a set of them for Christmas. On a recent visit I had a read myself!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    Books & authors my daughters loved, and now equally enjoyed by my granddaughter:
    Dr Seuss - Green Eggs & Ham, Cat in the Hat
    Michael Bond - all things Paddington
    Terry Jones - Fairy Tales & Fantastic Stories
    Earthsea - Ursula K Le Guin
    The Hobbit - Tolkein
    The last two would be read, chapter by chapter every night for weeks at a time.
    Any other recommendations?

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    Parents can be complete hypocrites in demanding our children read but failing to set the right example ourselves.

    I found some excellent magazines in my dad's wardrobe when I was eleven and was disappointed to discover that, despite his constant insistence that the more I read the better my vocabulary would become, when it came down to it he preferred to look at pictures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    maybe if we tried giving them decent books not dumbed down crap they may enjoy them more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    YeOldHammer - I agree. There is a huge range of modern childrens books that excite and delight. Our recent favourites have included Steve Coles 'Astrosaurs' (dinosaurs in space), the Adventure Island series by Helen Moss and all those Roald Dahl books that were written since I grew up. As well as more modern classics - Swallows and Amazons series and the Famous Five.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    This isn't something that I see. Don't have kids myself but my friends say they have to tear books away from their kids to get them to come to the dinner table etc, my nephew's are the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Lots of youngsters simply just don't enjoy it, or haven't yet found a genre they like. Coupled with the sheer amount of social media/gaming distractions they have.

    My 12 year old stepdaughter has recently taken up a keen interest in reading thanks to The Hunger Games. I'm very proud!


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