Every other year, Scholastic surveys children and their parents on their attitudes and behaviors towards reading. Through our Kids & Family Reading Report, we’ve been able to track everything from the rise and then recent decline of interest in ebooks to the slight decline in time children are spending reading for fun, and even study the impact the Harry Potter series has had on children’s reading lives.
The fifth edition of the survey, released yesterday, has some interesting findings that educators and school leaders should know about. Here are four big ones:
1) How often are children reading independently at school? While 44% of children say they read books for fun mostly out of school, nearly one-third (31%) say they read at home and school about equally, and 14% say they read for fun mostly in school. What’s most interesting to me is that children from lower-income households are more likely to say they do their reading for fun at school. What does that tell me? School is an especially crucial place for students to develop a love of reading.
2) Do students enjoy the independent reading they do at school? Yes. Half of students (52%) had positive things to say about the time spent reading independently at school – saying it was one of their favorite parts of the school day, or they wished there was more time for it. As a staff, this may be a good time to brainstorm creative ways to carve out more time for reading independently, as a class or even as a whole school.
3) What do kids want in books? Two things stand out here for me. First, children almost universally agree that “My favorite books are the ones that I have picked out myself.” So, giving kids choice is key. Second, above all, kids want books that make them laugh. They also want books that let them explore their imaginations, and, as they get older, books that help them escape the realities of life. I think that bringing more humor, imagination and realism to reading provides children with experiences that can offer comfort and challenges. And they need some of both to reap the psychological and intellectual benefits of reading. “Don’t underestimate the power of pleasure reading,” wrote researchers Jeffrey Wilhem and Michael W. Smith, authors of the 2014 book Reading Unbound.
4) What are the factors that lead to students reading frequently? What would encourage them to read more? For the Kids & Family Reading Report, more than 130 measures were analyzed to see what predicts if a child will read 5–7 days a week. Among the powerful predictors that children ages 12-17 will be frequent readers are: Having time to read independently during the school day; reading more books after being introduced to ebooks; living in a home with 150 or more print books; and having parents who help them find books and encourage reading for fun in specific ways – such as limiting screen time.
We want our future generations to be voracious readers who better understand themselves. We want our children to grow up to choose to read when they need information or inspiration, when they have a problem to solve or when they need a good laugh. Our classrooms, schools and communities are essential to achieving those goals.