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 361.

    As a small child I loved to read books. Couldn't get enough of them & my game of choice was "dictionary" - person 1 looks up a word, person 2 to spell it.
    By my mid teens I was forced to read books that held no interest: Shakespeare, Keats, George Eliot. These put me off totally, & I refused (many detentions!). 45 years (& a good career) later I've never picked up a book again.
    Food for thought?

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    Before leaving for work my father always warned me not to touch his books! Of course I was hooked by the time I saw through his scam. By the time I started school I would read anything; books , papers, cereal packets. By age 8 I had a reading age of 18 - didn't make me clever or smart but a love of books is great for broadening the mind and exercising the imagination. Thanks, Dad.

  • 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 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!

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    Reading to children when they are small will go some way toward encouraging a love of books in children but the best thing to keep children reading into their teen and beyond is to see their parents reading for pleasure. The adults should switch off their phones, computers and games if they want their children to do the same.


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