Fewer pre-school children being read to, Egmont report warns

Fewer pre-school children being read to, Egmont report warns

Only 51% of pre-school children are read to on a daily basis, a “steep decline” from 69% five years ago, Egmont Publishing has revealed.

The “Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer” survey, undertaken by Nielsen Book Research and co-funded by Egmont, showed that 58% of parents of 3-4 year-olds struggled to read with their children every day. Nearly a fifth (19%) said it was hard to find the energy, whilst 16% said their child would rather do other things.

In addition, 21% of the parents said they didn’t feel comfortable in bookshops and nearly half (46%) said there is too much choice.

Alison David, consumer insight director of Egmont Publishing, revealed the findings at a presentation in London, saying: “It’s no surprise that parents of toddlers are exhausted - the pressure on families is enormous, especially as parents struggle to balance returning to work and meaningful time at home.

“However, at such a crucial time in a child’s development it’s essential that parents understand the enormous benefits that reading for pleasure will bring them and their child, both in terms of attainment and enjoyment.”

The survey showed that 61% of parents are worried about the amount of time their children spend in front of screens, meaning the book industry needs to offer children a “real range” of print alternatives to choose from, said David. “A sense of agency, and being given the freedom to pick their own reading material, is far more effective in creating lifelong readers than a strict reading list,” she said.

At the same event, Egmont also revealed its latest piece of independent research, the “Reading Magic Project”, carried out with W H Smith. Last autumn, the retailer hosted in-store sessions with a professional storyteller to try and inspire reading and book buying. Over a six-week period, parents recorded a “marked improvement” in their own reading skills, and changed their view of reading, deciding that the activity was an enjoyable experience rather than a chore, the research found.