Only two thirds of British children read outside of class at least once a week, a survey of over 18,000 8-to-17-year-olds by the National Literacy Trust found. That doesn’t sound too bad, until you realize that the study counted glancing at a text message as reading.
When asked, Which of these do you read outside of class at least once a month? nearly 60 percent said they read text messages or magazines, and around half said they read e-mails, websites and social networking sites.
Only 45.8 percent said they read fiction books. And only 35.2 percent read nonfiction.
Given that most of those who read nonfiction books probably also read some fiction, those figures suggest that around half of British children do not regularly read books outside of class.
The answers to How many books (fiction, nonfiction) do you read in a month? is more encouraging, with only 13 percent saying they have not read any. However, this question did not ask whether this reading was inside of class or out, meaning that many of those who did read books did so because they had to.
“This divide between the ‘reads’ and the ‘read-nots,’ is concerning,” the National Literacy Trust reported August 22, “because the research shows reading frequency has a direct link to attainment, as 8 in 10 children who read over 10 books a month are above-average readers compared to just 3 in 10 of those who rarely read.”
The study also found that the older children got, the fewer books they read. Over 50 percent of children in key stage two (the equivalent of second to fifth grade in the U.S.) read fiction at least once a month, and over 40 percent read nonfiction. By the time they get into key stage four (ninth and tenth grades) only just over 30 percent read fiction at least once a month, and 25 percent nonfiction.
Enjoyment of reading decreased with age also. Sixty-eight percent of those in key stage 2 said they enjoyed reading “very much” or “quite a lot.” Only 32.5 percent of children in key stage 4 said the same thing.
The study also revealed girls enjoyed reading and read more than boys. Fifty-five percent of girls said they enjoyed reading “very much” or “quite a lot.” Only 42.3 percent of boys said the same.
One in five boys said that they thought reading was more for girls than boys.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the New York Times writes, “A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study reports that children spend more hours engaging with various electronic media—tv, games, videos and other online entertainments—than they spend in school,” probably referring to this January 2010 study.
Reading is a vital skill that must be taught and encouraged in children. With so many electronic distractions, no wonder more children read from screens than they do print. Parents need to teach children the value of reading real books, and set an example themselves. ▪