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Focus on Reading

Between August 29 and September 10, 2014, survey group YouGov managed a study in the US for Scholastic, a company that for 90 years has been producing quality products aimed at educating, entertaining and motivating children, including books, fairs and resources. This resulted in the ‘Kids & Family Reading Report 5th Edition’, which you can read in full here.

The sample of 2,558 parents and children included 506 parents of children aged 0–5, 1,026 parents of children aged 6–17, plus one child aged 6–17 from the same household. The survey sample was sourced and recruited by using a nationally representative panel, and, to ensure proper demographic representation, final data were weighted according to various benchmarks.

The key findings were fascinating for anyone who is interested in children and reading. They included the following:

• Half of all children ages 6–17 (51%) were currently reading a book for fun and another one in five (20%) had just completed one.

• Both parents of children ages 6–17 (71%) and kids (54%) ranked strong reading skills as the most important skill a child should have. Yet while 86% of parents said reading books for fun was extremely or very important, only 46% of kids agreed.

• Three-quarters of parents with children ages 6–17 (75%) wished that their child would read more books for fun, and 71% wanted their child to do more things that did not involve screen time.

• Children who read books for fun 5–7 days a week, differed substantially in a number of ways from those who read books for fun less than one day a week. For instance, 97% of frequent readers ages 6–17 said they were currently reading a book for fun or had just finished one, while 75% of infrequent readers said they hadn’t read a book for fun in a while.

• Children ages 6–11 who were frequent readers read an average of 43.4 books annually, whereas infrequent readers in this age group read only 21.1 books.

• Among children ages 12–17, frequent readers read 39.6 books annually and infrequent readers read only 4.7 books per year.

What produced the children who were frequent readers?

Several factors were highlighted:

• children being more likely to rate themselves as ‘really enjoying reading’

• a strong belief that reading for fun was important and

• having parents who were frequent readers.

• reading aloud early and often

• specific characteristics kids want in books

• spending less time online using a computer.

Additional factors that predicted children ages 12–17 would be frequent readers included

• reading a book of choice independently in school

• e-reading experiences

• a large home library

• having been told their reading level

• having parents involved in their reading habits.

The study further revealed that 54% of children ages 0–5 were read aloud to at home almost every night of the week. This reduced to 34% of kids ages and to one in six kids ages 9–11 (17%); four in 10 children ages 6–11 who were read books aloud at home (40%) said they wished that their parents had continued reading aloud to them.

83% across age groups said they loved or liked being read aloud to a lot, mainly because of the time spent with parents.

73% of parents with children ages 0–5 said that they started reading aloud to their child before age one, but only 30% said that they began before the age of three months.

One third of children aged 6–17 said that their class had a designated time during the school day to read a book of choice independently, but only 17% did this every or almost every school day. 52% of children said that reading independently was one of their favourite parts of the day or wished it would happen more often.

When it comes to selecting which books to read, 91% of children aged 6–17 said that their favourite books were the ones that they picked out themselves, while 70% of that age group wanted books that ‘make them laugh.’

54% also wanted books that prompted them to use their imagination

48& wanted made-up stories.

43% wanted characters they wished they could be like because they’re smart, strong or brave, or taught them something new

41% wanted to have a mystery or a problem to solve

Even though the percentage of children who have read an ebook had increased across all age groups since 2010 from 25% to 61%. most were still reading the majority of books in print format and 65% agreed that they would always want to read books in print even through there were ebooks available.

What can we conclude from these statistics?

If we want the product of more children reading more, then:

Reading needs to be fun.

Parents need to be frequent readers.

There’s little that can be done to enforce more frequent reading by parents, but how can reading be made more fun?

The answer is to remove any kind of enforcement or penalty from it.

And that’s been done in the Hudson Expanded Adventure Reading Tournament, about which you can read more here.

This reading game focuses on the fun factor - with spectacular results.

When the H.E.A.R.T. programme was initially piloted, feedback suggested that teachers were somewhat caught off-guard by its success in terms of its reception by the children.

Within the first fortnight, over 90% of children had succeeded in dramatically boosting the volume of their reading.

The percentage of those who from that point maintained an increase in reading volume was maintained for the next two months, tailing off to 60% in the last week since most children were then reading at something like 'cruising speed' within their lifestyles and schedules, and were having to be inventive to try and find more reading time.

Reports came in from parents that children who had formerly hated reading or read little if at all were becoming difficult to prise away from books when at home and were often reading in the car on the way to school to try and boost their points! This was anticipated, and is to be expected. To reach King or Queen and be crowned is supposed to be a real achievement, attained through ingenuity as well as consistent loyalty to the programme.

At the end of first term, approximately 40% reached the rank of Earl, while the rest hovered at Viscount level. This meant that all the children had successfully and substantially increased the volume they were reading consistently over the term, with no exceptions.

Most importantly, they had tremendous fun doing it and felt personally involved in the game and very self-determined about reading, which was the intention of the programme -ensuring that educators have a basis of consistent, resistance-free reading in their children upon which to build. It was estimated that there were less than 5% of children requiring distinct help to proceed further by the time the programme was done.

The creative aspect of the programme -the games the children get to play, the ‘privileges’ they earn with each rise in rank, the inter-Order competitions, and so on- all need to be kept fresh and appealing to that age group or the Tournament will flag, but that is where individual creativity and teacher-ingenuity come in.

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