The number of children who enjoy reading for pleasure has increased but the gender gap between girls and boys has widened, according to a new report from the National Literacy Trust (NLT).
For this year’s ‘Children’s and Young People’s Reading’, an annual report into children’s reading habits, the NLT surveyed young people aged eight to 18 in the UK in November and December 2014.
During that period, 54.4% of children and young people said they enjoyed reading very much or quite a lot, compared to 53.3% in 2013. Last year there was also an increase in the number of those who read daily outside school (41.4%, up from 32.2% in 2013).
The NLT asked participants about what types of reading the children did, dividing it into categories such as fiction, websites, text messages, song lyrics and e-books, and 46.7% said they read fiction outside the class. All formats had grown in popularity apart from magazines, which were read by 48.7% of children, compared to 52.7% in 2013.
However, the survey also showed that the gap between the number of girls who read compared to boys is wider than before, as 61.6% of girls said they enjoyed reading either very much or quite a lot compared with 47.2% of boys.
The gap rose from a 12.7 percentage point difference in 2013 to a 14.4 percentage point difference in 2014 because more girls said they enjoyed reading, while the number of boys who said the same thing remained static.
There were also some differences when it came to socioeconomics and ethnic background. Children who receive free school meals are slightly less likely to enjoy reading very much or quite a lot compared to those who pay for school meals (50.4% versus 54.9%), and those from white backgrounds are less likely to enjoy reading than those of other ethnic backgrounds.
Only 53.6% of children from white backgrounds said they enjoyed reading, compared to 61.1% of Asian children and 59.8% of black children.
By contrast, children and young people from Asian ethnic backgrounds are less likely to read outside class every day than young people from other ethnic backgrounds (White 42.2%, mixed-race 44.9%, Asian 39.8%, and Black 42.8%).
However, the NLT said its categorisation of ethnic backgrounds may hide some important differences within groupings, so any conclusions based on these data should be drawn with caution.
In terms of regions, the areas with the most children who said they enjoyed reading were Greater London (62.7%) and the West Midlands (60.4%). At the bottom end of the scale are the North West (41.1%) and Northern Ireland (48.8%).