Various pieces of new research again highlight the importance of children reading for pleasure in order to improve their life chances.
The Institute of Education has published research which shows that “children who read for pleasure are likely to do significantly better at school than their peers.” It found that “children who read for pleasure made more progress in maths, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of 10 and 16 than those who rarely read.”
“Reading for pleasure was [also] found to be more important for children’s cognitive development between ages 10 and 16 than their parents’ level of education. The combined effect on children’s progress of reading books often, going to the library regularly [my emphasis] and reading newspapers at 16 was four times greater than the advantage children gained from having a parent with a degree.” In addition “children who were read to regularly by their parents at age 5 performed better in all three tests at age 16 than those who were not helped in this way.” See the press release for more information.
In the same week as the above research was published, a Guardian news item revealed the downward trend in reading to children at bedtime. Although 75% of respondents could recall being read to every night when they were kids, only 13% now read a story to their children every night, although 64% of respondents said they read their children bedtime stories. The results come from a poll of 2000 parents of children aged 0-7 years.
Update 19-9-13: research by the Oxford University Press and reported in the Daily Mail found that:
around two-thirds of six year olds said they enjoy reading with an adult, but the figure is only 44 per cent among children who are just a year older.
- half of eight and nine year olds were rarely or never read to at home.
A former headteacher involved with the research said: “All the research proves that reading for pleasure is inextricably linked to attainment and benefits all aspects of children’s lives.”
I can remember being read to as a child, and when I was a babysitter I would always read them a story… sometimes it turned into more than one as they would frequently ask for ‘just one more’.
Given the above research it shows that having books in the home is essential, and for children and families to read together as well as children to enjoy reading on their own. UK schemes such as the Summer Reading Challenge and in Wales the Make time to read initiative aim to do both these things.
Michael Davidson, PISA senior analyst agrees: “Reading for pleasure is a more important determinant of children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status” he said in a BBC Wales interview. For librarians, this is all useful and important evidence of the crucial role libraries can play in a child’s life.
But it doesn’t have to end at 16 – we can read to each other as adults, or, sit and listen to a story as a group of friends as I did at the weekend. One of the friends (a librarian) had written a short story set in the museum in Aberystwyth and it had been published on a short story website, and then someone (who does this a lot) made it into an audio-visual experience on YouTube. It’s only 15 minutes long so why not listen tonight? (NB probably not one for very small children).