Survey: Squeeze on children's reading for pleasure

Survey: Squeeze on children's reading for pleasure

Parents struggle to create time to read at home and view reading largely as a skill rather than as something to enjoy, according to new research from Egmont.

Only 16% of boys aged 5-7 read every day for pleasure, compared to 54% who read every day for school, the study found. Meanwhile, 53% of girls aged 5-7 read every day for school, but only 29% read each day for pleasure.

The statistics are among the first findings of Egmont's Reading Lives research programme, launched by consumer insight director Alison David [pictured] in February. The study follows 12 families over the course of a year, examining the place of reading in family life.

The research showed that more parents now view reading purely as a "skill" to acquire, rather than something to encourage children to do for pleasure. Fifty-two per cent of parents view teaching children to read as a shared activity between parents and teachers, and 12% think responsibility lies purely with the school/teachers.

Family time is also being squeezed; 53% of parents wished they had more time for reading with their children. The research also showed that parents associate reading with betterment and educational advantage above anything else. Sixty-four per cent of parents identified language development as one of the top three benefits of reading, while 51% selected improving imagination, and 37% chose its ability to give children a head start at school. Only 11% cited the importance of reading in a child's social development, with 10% saying a child's emotional development was a top three benefit of reading, and 8% choosing increasing a child's self-esteem.

Meanwhile, only 7% of parents see reading with children as fun for adults, and just 5% see it as the highlight of their day.

David said: "Parents are putting a massive pressure on themselves because of a lack of time . . . Reading is falling through the gap."

She added: "It's tempting for people to want to point the finger at one single thing when we read headlines and statistics that say that reading for pleasure is in decline—whether that's time-poor parents, target-driven schooling or the rise of screen time. As our Reading Street research unfolds, we're starting to see that it's a combination of all those circumstances, all of which are adding up to pressure on reading.

"The victim right now is a time and a place in children's lives for the simple but essential pleasure of reading."

Senior vice-president Egmont English language and Central Europe Rob McMenemy said: "Over half of parents we spoke to wished they had more time for reading with their children, which is fantastically positive, but many simply didn't feel they could prioritise it . . . We've also found that in many families reading still thrives, and through Reading Street we want to find out how and why, and what it's going to take to inspire more children to read."

The findings are based on the reading habits of the 12 families observed for the Reading Street programme, as well as a supporting study of more than 1,000 parents of 2-16-year-olds. The second chapter will look at children's reading for targets, and the impact that has, and will be published by Egmont early this summer.