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Saturday, June 03, 2017

Reading for pleasure falls after primary school years

By Katherine Sellgren

BBC News education reporter

1 June 2017

Only one-third of teenage boys in the UK say they enjoy reading, a study by the National Literacy Trust suggests. The Trust found a significant drop in boys' reading enjoyment between the ages of eight and 16 - from 72% at ages eight-to-11 to 36% at ages 14-16. Girls' pleasure in picking up a book also dropped off in the teenage years, though not quite as markedly. At ages eight-to-11, 83% of girls said they enjoyed reading, but this dropped back to 53% at ages 14-16. Director of the NLT Jonathan Douglas said: "Young people's love of reading steadily declines from the day they leave primary school to the day they leave secondary school - particularly when it comes to boys. This is a trend we must reverse." Mr Douglas said an increasing number of academic, social and leisure priorities, as well as a curriculum that puts more emphasis on homework and study, all played their part. He said there were lots of ways that parents and teachers could encourage teenagers to read for fun. "For starters, you can motivate boys to read by tapping in to their interests, such as football, comedy and gaming, and letting them choose what they want to read. Remember that everything counts, whether they want to read a fictional story, newspaper, magazine or comic."

Overall though, pleasure in reading appears to be rising steadily among UK children. The NLT survey of 41,334 children aged eight to 16, carried out at the end of 2016, found nearly six children in 10 (57%) said they enjoyed reading either very much or quite a lot. "While enjoyment levels had been rather stable between 2005 and 2012, they have been rising steadily since 2013, and in 2016 we recorded the highest percentage of reading enjoyment levels," the report said. Girls enjoyed getting stuck into a book more than boys, with 65% enjoying reading either very much or a lot compared with 52% of boys. A child's background was not linked to reading pleasure, as the Trust did not find any difference between children who received free school meals and those who did not.

"It is the first time in 11 years [of conducting this research] that we have not recorded a difference in reading enjoyment by socio-economic background," the report said. However, there were differences along the lines of ethnicity, with fewer pupils from white backgrounds enjoying reading compared with pupils from mixed or black ethnic backgrounds. Pupils from Asian backgrounds were most likely to say they enjoyed reading.

[OK, the results are mixed but, generally, good here. It looks like a significant number of children actually enjoy reading on a regular basis. I think it’s always been the case that girls tend to read more than boys – I even notice that myself observing far more women than men reading on the bus or at work. Thankfully the book is far from dead. I wonder if this is the long echo of the Harry Potter effect. It could be as children/young adults look for something similar and then branch out into other things. Personally I didn’t become an addictive reader until my early teens and, if it wasn’t for a random act of book loaning from a friend of my brothers I might never have picked up the bug. What a very strange world that would’ve been…..]


Mudpuddle said...

a bit of encouraging information; how unusual, but welcome...

CyberKitten said...

Think we need all the encouragement we can get these days.

Brian Joseph said...

As you say the results are mixed, but an overall increase is good. We keep hearing that folks are reading less. I am skeptical when I hear such things. Sometimes it is not obvious but I think that the world is slowly getting smarter and more engaged in positive ways. There are unfortunately nasty set backs that make long term trends hard to see.

I always loved reading as child. I cannot imagine what my younger years would have been like without reading.

Stephen said...

I grew up a reader, but I didn't start reading nonfiction voraciously until I hit 20/21. In general I think kids are encouraged to read -- so they can learn to read -- out of connection to their schoolwork, and many adults whose jobs don't involve reading/writing reports or whatever only see reading as entertainment, and only do it when they're at the beach or the airport. But now they have tablets everywhere, so that little opportunity is gone.

I don't think we regular readers appreciate that for some people, reading is a chore -- scanning and decoding all these words, words, words is laborious if you don't do it a lot. (I'm relying on my present efforts to read in Spanish...)

CyberKitten said...

@ Brian: It's funny when people talk about the decline in reading. Have you been in a bookstore recently? You have to fight your way to the till through the crowds of all ages buying books - and not just the latest blockbuster or just at Christmas!

Strange as it may seem - even/especially to people who have known me for a long time - I hardly read much as a child but spent my early years sat in front of a TV. My English teacher was appalled by how much I watched. I only became the voracious reader I am now in my early teens.

@ Stephen: During my teenager years I developed a keen need to understand WTF was going on around me. Not getting answers from anyone else I (in good Hermione Granger fashion) went to the library and just started reading. 40+ years later I'm still going and still looking for answers.

At least some of the people I know would *like* to read more but complain about not having the time or the space to read uninterrupted. I can understand that with families, jobs and responsibilities. Luckily (apart from a job) I have none of that! I think that reading is as hard as you make it (once you find the time). If I HAD to read something I found uninteresting I'd really struggle with it - as I have in the past. Give me a well written book on a subject that I'm focused on learning about & I can polish off 100+ pages a day. Essentially you really have to pick your books if you want to read stuff without feeling the 'chore' element of things.

Oh, and kudos on reading in Spanish!!! I don't think that I have the energy to read in anything other than my first (and only) language [grin]

Stephen said...

No kudos yet...it's very basic. I'm reading children's stories, basically, like of Chicken Little.