A record number of children enjoy reading and there has been a dramatic increase in the number of children who read every day, according to new research by the National Literacy Trust. However, not all parents appear to be aware of how vital their support is for their children’s reading and a gender gap remains between girls’ and boys’ reading.
In their fifth annual survey of 32,000 children and young people aged between eight and 18, published to coincide with the start of the Hay Festival, the National Literacy Trust found enjoyment of reading and frequency of reading are both at their highest levels for nine years. This follows a series of major campaigns and initiatives including Bookstart, the Summer Reading Challenge, the Young Readers Programme and National Literacy Trust Hubs, which have combined with the advocacy of a succession of powerful Children’s Laureates to create momentum to encourage children to read more from a young age.
Children and young people who read daily outside class are five times more likely to read above the expected level for their age compared with young people who never read outside class.
Key findings from the research, Children’s and Young People’s Reading in 2014, are:
- Levels of reading enjoyment continue to improve. 54.4% of children and young people enjoy reading either very much or quite a lot. 35.5% only enjoy reading a bit and 10% do not enjoy reading at all.
- Levels of daily reading also continue to increase – dramatically. Between 2013 and 2014 there was a 28.6% increase in the number of children and young people who read daily outside class, rising from 32.2% in 2013 to 41.1% in 2014.
The gender gap is still a marked issue
The research shows there has been a sharp increase in the number of children and young people who read outside class on a daily basis in the last year, with girls edging further ahead of boys. The gap between the proportion of girls and boys who enjoy reading has also increased.
- Almost half (46.5%) of girls say that they read outside class on a daily basis compared with over a third of boys (35.8%). (This compares with 36.6% of girls and 28.2% of boys in 2013).
- 6 in 10 (61.6%) girls enjoy reading either very much or quite a lot compared with 47.2% of boys (compared to 59.8% of girls and 47.1% of boys in 2013).
Nearly one child in four thinks their parents don’t care if they read
The research shows there is still more to do to raise awareness among parents of how important their engagement is for their child’s literacy development, particularly among the most disadvantaged children. In the research, one child in four (24.3%) surveyed agreed with the statement “my parents don’t care if I spend any time reading”. This increases sharply among pupils who receive free school meals with almost one third (31.5%) agreeing with the statement, compared to 23% of pupils who do not receive free school meals.
Parental engagement with a child’s literacy development is a key contributor to their success. Children who receive free school meals tend to have lower literacy attainment than their peers, pointing to an even greater need for parents in this demographic to encourage their children to read, and to act as reading role models for their children.
Top book titles
This year’s research also found that 6 in 10 children have a favourite book or story. These titles were frequently mentioned:
National Literacy Trust Director Jonathan Douglas said:
“It is very encouraging to see that the number of children who read every day has radically increased. However it is a real concern that a third of the most disadvantaged children think their parents do not care whether they read. More must be done to help parents realise what a difference reading with their children from a young age can make to their future. Initiatives including Read On. Get On and our Words for Life campaign are raising awareness and helping parents understand their role in supporting their child’s literacy.”
“The research shows a clear need to focus on improving boys’ literacy levels through innovative projects like the National Literacy Trust’s Premier League Reading Stars, which has a dramatic impact on literacy attainment.”
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo, third Children’s Laureate and supporter of the National Literacy Trust, was one of the most popular books among the children and young people who took part in the survey. He commented:
“How good it is to have some heartening news about young readers, to know that there are so many now who have taken to reading and are making it part of their lives. This is quiet enrichment. This is growing awareness and understanding. This is the heart of the matter of education for life.
“But much is still to be done. Too many boys still seem disinterested in reading, and far, far too many children simply never become readers at all. So we writers and illustrators and storytellers, and parents and teachers, and publishers and booksellers, must continue to play our part. And government too should remember that literacy must first and foremost be enjoyed, if we are to engage our most reluctant readers, and remember too that libraries and librarians, both in schools and in our communities must be a priority.”
Author and National Literacy Trust ambassador Cressida Cowell, who wrote the How to Train Your Dragon series which was also rated highly in the survey, said:
“Reading a book with a child, even an older child, is one of the most important things a parent can do to develop their child’s literacy. I like to read a variety of books with my children and I think reading regularly is the key to writing well and broadening communication skills.” Children’s Laureate and National Literacy Trust ambassador Malorie Blackman said:
“When I was appointed as Children’s Laureate my aim was to see ‘more children, reading more’, so I’m delighted that the National Literacy Trust’s research shows that more children than ever are enjoying the pleasures of reading. While it seems that boys do have some catching up to do, programmes from the National Literacy Trust and other powerful reading initiatives will continue to help even more children to develop a love of books.
“We must however continue to work to ensure that all our children develop the reading for pleasure habit to improve their life chances. To this end we must ensure that each child has access the literacy tools they require – including school libraries and public libraries – to fulfil their true potential.”