Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Our kids are not reading

I was disappointed in the findings of the latest Pearl report into the reading habits of children across the world. This survey is carried out every five years and the latest results are based on findings in 50 countries measuring the amount of ten year olds that regularly read for pleasure.

My disappointment stems from the fact that my country, England, has dropped to tenth in the table. Russia is rated number one. Immediately above us is Latvia. In 2002 England was number three behind the Netherlands and Sweden.

The reasons for this decline are simple and apparent. Parents, when surveyed, were found to be less likely to spend time reading to their children than was the case a few years ago. And of course, computer games are considered far more cool than books! England incidentally, tops the league for the percentage of children which spend more than three hours each day playing games.

Interesting then, that sales of books written for children are at an all time high!

Children that do read tend to prefer series of books. They like to follow the adventures of a particular character. This gives authors a dilemma. Should they continue to write for a particular age group, or does the main character grow up with the reader? The biggest selling books are in the latter category, and it could be said that new characters are not being created for youngsters who are just starting to read unaided.

The computer game does of course have an important place in the lives of young people. Not so many years ago kids spent their play time out of doors. Then they played cops and robbers, or cowboys and Indians, shooting each other with toy guns. Parents today are less willing to let their children play outside, and these games are played out on machines rather than in the great outdoors. And of course the bad guys aren’t ‘injuns‘ but aliens! And this takes place when they might otherwise be reading.

Today there is less reading at home, the literacy hour in school has been dropped, and one in five kids leaving primary school are unable to read. The decline in reading for pleasure should not come as much as a surprise. It remains however, disappointing.


  1. Keith I agree with you! It is indeed a sad think. My son hates to read so I have had to be sneaky in the way I get him to, I buy comics, or series of books he likes. It truly makes me sad because so many journeys can be taken within the pages of books.

    I have an award for you on my blog hope you will accept it.


  2. Hey there Keith,

    I love this article and I think that this should be a an eye opener to everyone. Read to your children. Reading allows for you to use your imagination and you can go anywhere with a good story. Video games do as well serve as purpose but they will never take the place of a well written book. Also the great outdoors should once again become apart of every kids lives.

  3. My kids have two reading periods per day. In period one, mom or I start the story as a read aloud and sons (7 and 9) finish up the chapter on their own. The last half hour of the day is free reading. Monthly, we spend loads of cash on books for the boys because we live in a frontier community that does not yet have a public library. One is in the works but our kids can't wait until then. (Chest puffing out now) Younger son decoded “Trivia Challenge” tonight and knew what it meant. Now, how he came to such a turn of phrases is a story best kept for a blog instalment somewhere else and on another day.

  4. It is my experience that parents are on the internet talking, instead of reading out loud, when children are very young. This is an informative article, Keith. I just knew that series books interested kids more than individual stories. I know when I was young, Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew, Enid Blyton's Adventure Series, Hardy Boys even the Bobbsie Twins interested me. I don't think I ever read just one book. Cleigh is and was the same way.

  5. My kids read, but I know we are rare. I know this because I teach high school. Many kids seriously hate to read. I blame television, and video games. Maybe that's a pat answer, but it makes sense. In homes where parents limit the TV and videogames, kids have a couple of options -- go outside and get fresh air (something that many kids don't get enough of), fiddle around with an instrument (there we go ... another something kids don't get enough of), create something -- visual or performance (what do you know ... art ... another dying area), play with toys, or READ. So, turn that TV off. Read, read, read to your babies. I've been saying it for almost 13 years, since the day my first daughter was born.

  6. Can't see the situation changing. One of the by-products of not reading, is that they cannot spell.

  7. It is so very sad. NZ is very very bad. They should spent more time on the basics. Reading and math and not throw in so many other subjects. I also find it so surprising that I Holland I learned english spelling and grammer and here they don't get any of it. The children learn reading from guessing the word by llooking at the context not by learning to decipher by spelling rules andd phonetics. Luckily to slowly get back to the old methods. But too late for my kids

  8. I tend to encourage reading to my toddler most of the time, I grew up reading books and palying outdoors, telly was rare and computer my childhood I have never had one encounter with a pc...

    I think the reasons for many illnesses in the young is directly related with these habits.. a very unhealthy lifestyle is the world we live in today. Thank you.


  9. yes.. they just like Harry Potter...

    & TV of course...

    But In Indian schools they are so burdened with text books still!

  10. hmm. strange..i was so sure i had left a my two cents here...

    reading is close to my heart and i am so happy that i've managed to inculcate the love for words in my son..

    that's one of the things i love about Singapore - their libraries are huge and satisfying and we visit every week!!!



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