It has been 10 years since we first released the Kids & Family Reading Report, Scholastic’s biannual study of children’s and parents’ attitudes and behaviors around reading. In the decade since, much has changed in the research on reading aloud starting at birth, discussions around access to books and diversity in children’s books, and efforts to promote summer reading. Yet despite knowing that all families want their children to succeed, not all realize that books and reading both improve children’s academic skills and critical thinking abilities, as well as help children develop empathy and compassion.
To continue to drive conversations about kids’ reading and the power of books, we are pleased to share with you the findings from the Kids & Family Reading Report: 6th Edition. This research provides both reasons to celebrate as well as a strong motivation to continue working to ensure that all children are able to read the books they love every day.
Among the most positive findings we see the impact of the recent movement to encourage families to begin reading aloud to their children at birth and to keep going as their children get older. Previously, we found 30% of parents with children ages 0–5 reported reading to their child before three months old. Today, 40% of parents do. The percentage of families reading aloud to young children 5–7 days a week has also increased among families with kids ages 3–5 (55% to 62%), yet we still find many parents read less often to children older than 5, with another steep drop-off occurring at age 8.
While starting to read aloud early matters, we know that having books at home also makes a difference in kids’ reading lives. The report verifies that the homes of frequent readers have far more children’s books than the homes of infrequent readers, and a similar disparity exists in low-income homes and the homes of African-American and Hispanic families. This is a strong call to action to ensure we are all working hard to get books into the hands of every child.
We also wanted to better understand what diversity in children’s books means to parents, as well as what types of characters kids and parents look for in kids’ books. Parents shared with us that when they consider the meaning of diversity in books for children and teens, they believe these books include “people and experiences different than those of my child” (73%), “various cultures, customs or religions” (68%), “differently-abled people” (51%), “people of color” (47%), and “LGBTQ people” (21%). We also found about one in 10 kids look for characters who are differently-abled (13%), are culturally or ethnically diverse (11%), and who break stereotypes (11%). Hispanic and African-American families express more interest in diverse books than non-Hispanic and non-African-American families.
Many of us working in schools and education are aware of the academic skills lost over the summer when children are out of school, but in this edition of the Kids & Family Reading Report we found that only 48% of parents have heard of the summer slide, a percentage that decreases to 38% among lower-income families. Even as kids tell us that, contrary to popular belief, they enjoy summer reading and believe it is important, they need more support and access to books. On average, one in five 12–17 year-olds and one in five kids in lower-income families do not read any books at all over the summer.
While the report reveals that many kids continue to have trouble finding books they like, parents underestimate this challenge. Only 29% of parents agree “my child has trouble finding books he/she likes,” whereas 41% of kids agree—57% among infrequent readers vs. 26% of frequent readers. Fortunately, the data in the report can offer guidance on where kids and families get great ideas about books to read for fun.
Literacy empowers children to explore, communicate, debate and think critically. The ability to read widely with curiosity and joy prepares children to become adults who are fully engaged with their world. The Kids & Family Reading Report helps us understand how we as adults can support children as they first learn to read, and then love to read. We hope you will find this information valuable. We invite you to join us in our mission to “Open a World of Possible” for every child by sharing the data widely. Let us all be advocates for ensuring that children everywhere have access to the quality books that build a lifetime love of reading and learning.
CEO, Scholastic Inc.
To read and download the complete report, including infographics, please visit scholastic.com/readingreport.