National Literacy Trust Survey: Children Prefer Texts And Emails To Books
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Young people prefer reading text messages and emails to books, with one in five consider reading outside of class “embarrassing”, a survey has shown.
The National Literacy Trust questioned more than 18,000 young people in 111 schools across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland about their reading habits. The questionnaire focused on attitudes towards reading, writing and communication skills.
The results, published on Tuesday, show only one in six UK children between eight and 17 years of age read a novel outside class every month. Of those surveyed, 10 per cent "do not enjoy reading at all".
Children's author Alan Durant, whose books include Burger Boy and Football Fever said: "Reading isn't easy; it requires creative input from the reader to create images and bring to life the bare words on the page. TV is easy; you just sit back and have all the images fed to you.
"Reading has such an important function in developing children's imagination that we must do all we can to encourage and support young readers and give them material that excites and inspires them."
More than half of the children answered yes to “I prefer watching TV to reading” and a quarter agreed with the statement “I only read when I have to”. The survey report also says: "Two in 10 would be embarrassed if their friends saw them read outside of class".
Katie Hughes, who teaches six to nine year-olds at a primary school in Reading, said: "It is difficult to encourage children to read outside of class, boys in particular. They generally prefer non-fiction to fiction and always judge the book by it's cover.
"It does very much depends on the parent's attitude to reading. With nine year-olds, even though they can read well, they struggle with comprehension as they have to really understand the story. The more they read the better their writing is but in my opinion everything is becoming far too IT- based."
Other statistics from the survey, carried out in November and December last year, included:
• Girls read outside of class more frequently than boys
• One in five young people said they had never received a book as a present
• Nearly four in 10 children surveyed only enjoyed reading "a bit" with more than 12 per cent saying "not at all".
• More than half of the children answered yes to “I prefer watching TV to reading”
• A quarter agreed with the statement “I only read when I have to”.
• Those who read the most frequently outside of class are more likely to be reading above the level expected for their age.
• 10 per cent of young people have never been to a bookshop or library
Children’s librarian Amanda Owens, who has worked at the Barbican Children’s Library for five years said: “As children get older, particularly as they become teenagers, they do seem to read less. But I think this has always been the case - even before social media. There are just more time pressures on teenagers and so they have less time to read.”
She added: “Saying that, our reading group for teenagers is being resurrected due to renewed interest. So if anything, we’ve noticed the numbers of children coming in to the library have gone up.”
The survey of 18,141 children drew a clear correlation between young people who do not receive free school meals enjoying reading more than those do receive meals. The former group also rate themselves as better readers than the latter, as well as reading more outside of class and for longer periods of time.
Only three per cent of children said they had no books at home, but bookshop manager Sarah Baskerville said parents needed to do more to encourage children to read.
Amanda Baskerville, who manages Wellfield Bookshop in Cardiff, said: "Some parents are incredibly good at bringing their children into the shop to buy books. Unfortunately there are also quite a few who feel reading is the last thing their children need."
She added: "World Book Day [on March 1] is a great way to introduce children to reading for pleasure, and it's something which helps children see reading as exciting and enjoyable."
The National Literacy Trust's policy advisor George Dugdale, said: "We recognise the need to embrace all new forms of technology whilst still retaining engagement with, and ability to use, more traditional forms. We strongly believe that children have the right to be supported to develop the literacy skills they need to live a successful, fulfilling and happy life in a world that is characterised by a wealth of different media.
"The National Literacy Trust is working hard to encourage every child in the UK to enjoy reading, and we need your support."