Research suggests that almost a fifth of kids stop frequently reading for fun between the ages of eight and nine years old.
When I was a kid, I was a huge reader. I had my nose in a book most days and would happily polish off a decent sized kids’ novel in a night. I started working in my school library, so I could access all the newest books before my classmates. As a kid, being transported through a book to anywhere, was just about the best magic available to me. Now, I don’t read nearly as much, but I still enjoy reading aloud to my own kids.
Decline by nine
Recently I came across some research from Scholastic.com about kids and their reading habits. The research suggests that there is a steep drop in kids regularly reading for fun between eight and nine years old. This drop is from 57% down to 35%. The research also suggested that often those kids don’t rebound back to the enjoyment of reading after the initial decline. However, because many kids across the measured age groups believed that reading was important, it may be possible for a child to come back to reading for fun. As parents (and other special adults in children’s lives) we can try and support that by helping them have their needs met by awesome books.
Why aren’t kids reading for fun?
I think there are lots of reasons kids do or don’t become frequent readers like I was. It could be, like many adults, they start to feel too busy to be able to sit down and read. If in your average week, you have school, homework and sports or other activities to do, where does reading fit? It could be that school work starts to ramp up and get more serious. The more required of them, the more mentally tired they are. A tired brain finds reading harder to concentrate on. I have seen others point at technology, but I personally feel that technology has engaged my children in reading far more than books at times. Technology is a huge enabler to the written word.
I often hear that saying, “children become readers in the laps of their parents”. I’m not 100% convinced of this. I have read to both of my kids all their lives, and they love me sharing a story. But that hasn’t meant they have rushed to pick up books on their own. As a result, I often read them the books that shaped so much of my own childhood, so that they still get the same messages and experience. Certainly, modelling reading behaviour for your kids can impact how they see reading.
The key to encouraging reading
Currently both of my kids are reading happily on their own. My eldest is my most infrequent reader, but she has been swept away with a series of books about dragons. My youngest is a moderate bookworm. Both kids love a funny story though, so I often find them giggling over a picture book together. The research from Scholastic pointed out that often funny books were a huge draw for young readers. This makes absolute sense. Funny books provide an escape. It feels great to laugh and to share that with family or friends. Most of my favourite kids’ books have been funny.
Other things to look for in a book are that the story is of interest to the child. Maybe they have a current obsession (such as dragons or unicorns). Maybe they are going through something personal – there is almost always a book that they could relate to. There might be something in the news playing on their minds – you could find books that explore those issues in an age appropriate way.
Reading for fun is so important. Not only is reading a great way to relax and unwind, or to obtain some escapism, reading can also open you up to new ideas, new hobbies or interests. A book can show you about the world around you, teach you things about people and cultures that you may not have been aware of. Books can help you grow.
Kidspot’s tips to get kids reading
- Frequent visits to the library will expose kids to more genres, more authors, and more opportunities to read but don’t force them to choose a book.
- Let your child lead the choices of books to read (assuming they are appropriate of course). They are more likely to read something that interests them.
- Comic books count as reading too!
- Reading on an e-reader or Kindle also counts for those who prefer to swipe rather than turn the page.
- Praise your child when they pick up a book and show interest by asking questions about the storyline and characters.
- Read the same book as your child for the ultimate parent-child book club!
- Reading for fun doesn’t have to be at bedtime – it can be in the morning before school, whilst sitting on the bus, or while winding down after homework.
- Ensure your child always has access to a selection of books at home.
Written by Kym Moore
When she isn’t herding kids or cats, Kym loves to drink craft beer, or share a whine and a wine with friends. She is also partial to a well-made cocktail. Her happy places include sitting on couch watching British Comedy and daydreaming. Lots of daydreaming.
Favourite artist: Bowie