Lockdown shifts in children's reading explored by WBD

Lockdown shifts in children's reading explored by WBD

Statstics suggest that while at the start of the pandemic many children and parents embraced books, reading has now reduced in 2021, while access remains a critical issue particularly for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

World Book Day (WBD) has collaborated with the UK’s leading reading and educational charities – BookTrust, CLPE, the National Literacy Trust, and The Reading Agency – as well as children’s publisher Egmont and data service Nielsen Books, to collate research and provide insights into the impact of the past year on children’s reading for the first time. 

Ahead of WBD which takes place on Thursday (4th March), the statistics show an initial boom in reading, boosting wellbeing and development during the coronavirus lockdown, followed by a dip this year. In addition the charity said that access to books remains a serious issue, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and there are concerns about the educational gap widening. 

Many children embraced reading in 2020, research from BookTrust, the National Literacy Trust and The Reading Agency showed. The majority looked online for reading inspiration, with YouTube (45%), social media (28%) and friends (31%) cited as a key source of ideas. Books provided a valuable resource to support children’s wellbeing. Young people reported that it helped them relax (40%) and made them feel happy (35%) while 17% also said they used it as a way to stay connected.

In regards to online learning, around 82% of teachers have found ways of reading aloud to their classes during the pandemic because it provided emotional support as well as developing literacy skills. Parents read more with children and encouraged children to read more too. Parents who read aloud to their children every day noticed an improvement in wellbeing, behaviour, family bonds and attainment with schoolwork.

However young people’s reading has decreased slightly this year, according to the latest evidence from Nielsen Books, published in Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer Survey 2020 last month. 

“But while the pandemic has seen such positives, it has also highlighted major concerns: access to books remains a serious issue, particularly among disadvantaged children and families,” WBD said of the research. “The research showed that a quarter of primary schools raised concern that access to books had become a barrier to reading for pleasure and overall literacy levels. Despite many schools implementing quarantine schemes and delivery services, 40% of primary-level children were unable to take books home. Among schools offering borrowing schemes, some spoke about having ‘run out’ of stock by 21st January.”  

The latest research for the National Literacy Trust shows the positive impact World Book Day has had during the pandemic. When asked in early 2021 what they had done differently as a result of World Book Day 2020, three in five primary school children (62%) said that they had read more books as a result. Over half (54%) had talked more about books with family and friends. A third (34%) had also read more books with family and friends. 

This year’s WBD authors and illustrators include Julia Donaldson, Lydia Monks, Tom Fletcher, Katherine Rundell, Humza Arshad and Holly Jackson among others. 

Cassie Chadderton, WBC c.e.o., said: “It’s wonderful to see how many children and families have felt the benefit of shared reading during the lockdowns, but this evidence shows that too many children in the UK don’t have access to books. World Book Day aims to change lives through a love of books and shared reading. Our mission to ensure that all children can experience the life-changing power of books and reading has never been more critical.”  

Diana Gerald, c.e.o. of BookTrust, commented: “While it’s encouraging that many families have embraced reading during lockdown, our insight from speaking to families and partners also suggests that there are many who are reading less and who have struggled to access books and stories during the Covid-19 pandemic. BookTrust has been working with our network of local authority partners as well as schools, family support teams, refuges and food banks to provide books and reading support to families in most need. We are committed to ensuring that children can experience the life-changing benefits that reading brings and we are delighted to be supporting World Book Day in that endeavour.”  

Louise Johns-Shepherd, CLPE c.e.o., said: “Books and stories are food for the soul, they change lives and nourish futures. It is vital that we come together to ensure that all our children have the access and the opportunity to benefit from the enormous power of reading.”  

For more information, visit worldbookday.com