Scholastic: Reading Improved by Time, Parent Involvement

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A new report recently released by children’s book publisher Scholastic has announced that the number of children reading books for fun is dropping.

The 2014 Kids and Family Reading Report looked at 1,000 children ages 6 to 17, finding that only 31% said they read a book for fun each day.  That percentage is down from the 37% that reported the same only four years ago.

Some patterns did emerge among consistent readers.  Younger children, those aged 6 to 11, who were read aloud to on a regular basis with restrictions to their online time showed a correlation with frequent reading.  In children aged 12 to 17, the largest predictor of being a good reader was whether or not they had time to do so during the school day.

Many parents may be surprised to hear of these patters, as they read books aloud to their toddlers as part of their bedtime routine, yet do not do so as their children get older.  A new policy was suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics last year, stating that all parents should read to their children from birth, writes Motoko Rich for The New York Times.

“A lot of parents assume that once kids begin to read independently, that now that is the best thing for them to do,” said Maggie McGuire, the vice president for a website for parents operated by Scholastic.

The report went on to suggest that a love of reading in elementary aged children is connected to a general love of reading.  Of those surveyed, 41% of avid readers aged 6 to 10 were read aloud to at home, with only 13% of those who did not enjoy reading as much reporting the same.

Scholastic has been releasing the Kids and Family Reading Report annually since 2006.  This year, for the first time, the report looked into indicators of children at different ages becoming avid readers, defining the term as someone who reads a book for fun five or more days each week.

Kristen Harmeling, a partner at YouGov who worked on the report, said that a number of children who participated in the study felt that having their parents read aloud to them was a special bonding time with them.  “I don’t think that parents know how important that time and the role that it plays in children’s lives,” she said.

While there is currently no strong evidence to suggest that reading aloud to children at an older age improves reading capabilities, literary experts feels that doing so allows children to hear more difficult stories and words than they would have decided to read on their own.

“It’s this idea of marinating children in higher-level vocabulary,” said Pam Allyn, founder of LitWorld.Org, a nonprofit group that works to increase literacy among young people. “The read-aloud can really lift the child.”

While the report found that older children were more likely to read for fun if they had time to do so at school, only 17% reported having enough time available to them.  Only 10% of 10-12 year olds and 4% of 15-17 year olds said they had time to read.  This time is thought to be of particular importance for low-income students who report being more likely to read for fun while at school than at home.

Despite very little connection being shown between reading time at school and increased reading comprehension, many large school districts including Boston and Chicago are asking teachers to make time in their schedules for students to read books of their choice.