Most readers can recall their favourite childhood story. In many cases this was the book or the character which first got them hooked on reading. Perhaps it was a series of fictional adventures or a particular author which became synonymous with their formative years. Our 5th annual survey Children's and Young People's Reading in 2014 shows record numbers of children are reading for enjoyment and reading every day outside school. This is excellent news because 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.
This research on the reading habits of 32,000 children and young people aged eight to 18, the most comprehensive of its kind, found that more than half (54.4%) of children and young people enjoy reading either very much or quite a lot. The research also shows that during the last year the levels of children who read every day outside class has increased dramatically by almost one third (28.6%), rising from 32.2% in 2013 to 41.1% in 2014.
This increase 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. However, one in ten children still say they do not enjoy reading at all and others do not read outside school.
However, many parents appear to be unaware of how vital their support is for their children's reading. Our research found that 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. We know there is a link between poverty and low literacy, pointing to an even greater need for parents in this demographic to support their children's literacy development, which is why initiatives such as our National Literacy Trust Hubs in disadvantaged communities are so key to social mobility.
The gender gap is still a marked issue and the research shows that whilst 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, girls have edged further ahead than boys. The gap between the proportion of girls and boys who enjoy reading has also increased.
Our statistics show 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). Meanwhile six in 10 (61.6%) of 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). 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.
Reading for enjoyment in childhood can not only be the start of a lifelong hobby, it also transforms a child's life chances by improving their literacy which is vital for success in school and the workplace as well their health, confidence and happiness.
The National Literacy Trust charity receives no government funding and works to improve literacy, particularly at the heart of some of the most disadvantaged communities in the country. We depend on support to carry out our vital work to raise literacy levels, particularly in the most disadvantaged communities. To find out more, visit www.literacytrust.org.uk