Teachers 'frustrated' over Reading for Pleasure

Teachers 'frustrated' over Reading for Pleasure

Teachers have a strong desire to teach reading for pleasure but feel frustrated by a restrictive curriculum, a lack of support from parents and a drop-off in school librarian numbers, according to publisher Egmont.

In the latest instalment of Egmont's Reading Street study into children's reading habits, the publisher's consumer insight team surveyed 250 teachers about their pupils' reading. The majority were classroom teachers, with 77% teaching children at primary stage and 66% having been in the profession for more than a decade.

Over half the teachers surveyed said there had been a decline in the number of children who read for pleasure over the course of their career, with the majority observing this trend over the past decade.

While teachers were passionate about reading for pleasure, they were concerned that the current teaching emphasis on reading as a skill rather than reading whole books affected pupils negatively, as did the lack of time to read books aloud to the class. Teachers also said their hands were tied over a "prescriptive" curriculum, with one commenting: "The English curriculum with its focus on constant tests/extracts is too prescriptive, limiting teachers' capacity to teach some texts of their own choosing that they love."

Although reading for pleasure is set to be included in the national curriculum from 2014, 82% of teachers surveyed felt the government was not doing enough to encourage reading for pleasure. Meanwhile, teachers also lamented the lack of school librarians to encourage children's reading. "I have found that once they realise how great reading is they tend to want to continue, but this takes time and a good knowledge of children's books. It is a shame schools don't have librarians any more," commented one.

A lack of support by parents in the home environment was also cited as a significant barrier, with parents often choosing to step back from supporting children in their reading for pleasure, firstly when they join school, and secondly—and to a much greater level—when they start Key Stage 2 at age seven or eight and are relatively confident readers.

Egmont consumer insight director Alison David said: "Teachers feel under huge pressure to teach to tests and the sheer joy of storytime doesn't happen as it used to happen. One of the main things teachers told us was that they had no freedom, that they have to do as they are told. They would love to be able to choose a book they love. They are very, very frustrated." She added: "Parents are also unaware that they need to be involved. Children need encouragement to a much older age than many parents realise—reading is a habit and it needs encouragement."

On the scarcity of school librarians, David said: "When we've talked to our families [the 12 families who form the basis of the publisher's research], most children get hold of a book either through the public library or school library. Schools are now not curating their collection—lots of the schools we go into have ancient books, and the selection should be a whole lot better."

The Reading Street study focuses on ongoing research into 12 families in Edinburgh, Bristol, London and Manchester, inspired by the "Child of Our Time" TV documentary series. Later this year, the study will report on the impact of digital technologies on children's reading.

The study is also intended to continue next year as part of an "open-ended" commitment, David said.