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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  • Comment number 278.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    Any reading should be encouraged, I started on comics, moved on to Gummidge and Narnia then onto more serious stuff.
    Its a bit like Wine drinking you start on sweet white and end up with a decent red, your palate and taste changes.
    Dickens,Orwell,Hardy, Laurie Lee stunning authors andfor me it all started with the Dandy.

  • Comment number 276.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    Simple solution take away the PC's, iPads, iPhones and buy them a book for one hour a day make them read and then they can return to their PC's etc:

    Children don't even play out anymore what is happening?

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    There is a lot of snobbery here. Of course kids should read books, but that does not mean they cannot enjoy mod-cons.

    From personal experience making sure my kids had a bedtime story book every night (mainly credit to my better half), seemed to work wonders as both were free readers by 6 years old and certainly my now 10 year old spends many hours reading every week.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    It doesn't help that several libraries have closed down thanks to the coalition governments cuts. Also some schools don't have libraries , and some schools with libraries under use them. Sometimes teachers don't seem to think that encouraging reading and library use is ideally part of their job, as it should also ideally be part of a parent's role.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    Reading online is not the same as reading a book.

    The internet is great for learning, research and news, but it's not the best place to go for a good story.

    Stories help expand our understanding of the world, especially when they are written down and not just passively watched on screen. This is because we have to use our imagination to mentally visualise what is going on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    Our son reads a story to his daughter (2 yrs) every night. Just we did when he was young. He has more than 500 books at home...enough said.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    I think it is too easy to say that electronics, bad parenting etc is to blame for children not wanting to read. I have a 13 yr old who was read to from babyhood, isn't a huge fan of electronic stuff, lives pretty much outside when he's not at school and hates reading. My 10yr old daughter though is a voracious reader just like me. Just accept some don't like to read for pleasure !

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    "A story book is just a long-winded way of watching a TV show or a film. "

    I despair - really, I do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    Probably because, like the rest of us, children have less spare time in which to read!

    The demands on younger children from a school system obsessed with targets is appalling. My children received homework from the age of 5 which I found disgraceful. It simply puts parents and kids under pressure at home.

    Love for reading starts young but won't with everyone exhausted from work or school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    I don't see the problem.

    Books were good when they were the only repository of information. Now we have TV, DVDs, the interweb.

    A story book is just a long-winded way of watching a TV show or a film. Some might get a little excited by long words or alliteration or some other literary device but the majority of us just want to get on with the story.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    Maybe he should have a go at using his imagination and writing some stories based on genres he like. You never know he might be the next big author!

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    Sales of Grand Theft Auto,Fifa Football,Smartphones etc in the blue corner.
    Number of books in a home in paper and or electronic form,in the red corner.
    Which boxer will have spent more time on his strengths?,blue or red?
    If and when that narrows or changes so will this headline!

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    Now a days they got lot more on computers in form of games,gossips and lot more to do with mobile phones and listen to music on them.How can they find time to read?They should get more incentives to develop taste for reading.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    I regard myself as fortunate that I was not put off reading by the set books and assigned reading at school.
    The selection seemed to be aimed at that effect whilst declaring otherwise.
    I now live with over a thousand friends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    257. billbi - "Multimedia changes the game & those with the intelligence use it to their advantage."

    I've decided you are being deliberately obtuse, & feel stupid for having been taken in this long.

    For the third time I said 'IF'.

    IF the change was for the negative...
    I am NOT talking about internet v paper...or T-rex :)
    & for the record its not either/or you can use the internet if you read.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    This surprises me - with so many 'teenage' films being based on popular YA books I would have thought reading would be on the increase. Who is reading those books then?

  • Comment number 260.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    223 uʍop ǝpısdn - Hah, fair enough.
    Seriously though, don't underestimate the draw of good illustrations, especially when teaching a child. A wall of text is intimidating, so it's nice to have the odd picture to break it up, or help kick their imagination into gear. It's why "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" is pretty much the default children's book.


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