I'm making my way through the 7th edition of the Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report, released in April. In this report, Scholastic summarizes results of a bi-annual survey dedicated to kids, parents, and reading. I shared a response to the new report's finding of a "Decline by Nine" or "Third Grade Cliff" earlier this month. Today, I'd like to discuss the report's findings on the factors that are common to kids who are frequent readers. These include:
- Reading role models;
- Access to books at home and in school; and
- Reading choice
Reading Role Models
Here are a few summary findings from the report. Frequent readers:
- "Get more encouragement to read from family members, friends, principals, teachers and school librarians than infrequent readers,
- Are far more likely to say that nearly everyone or a lot of people in their lives enjoy reading (82% say a lot or nearly everyone they know enjoys reading, versus infrequent readers at 34%),
- Are more likely to have parents who value reading and who read frequently"; and ...
- (A)re twice as likely to receive encouragement to read books for fun from their school librarian (37% vs. 18%)."
The statistics on the third point are especially strong. "Parents of frequent readers are far more likely to consider reading books for fun important compared to parents of infrequent readers (95% vs. 70%, emphasis mine). The difference is most notable when comparing parents who agree reading books for fun is extremely important (70% vs. 27%). Parents of frequent readers are also more likely to be frequent readers themselves (39% vs. 16%)." What this says to me is that parents who prioritize their kids' enjoyment of reading can absolutely make a difference in raising kids who choose to read.
The result that I don't understand is: why are older kids less likely to say that everyone around them enjoys reading? [See Figure 2. Click to enlarge.] Are kids just more skeptical as they get older? Or is this part of the decline in reading aloud to kids? When we read aloud to kids, we show them that we love reading. Maybe when we stop they start to see that we talk a good game, but don't really enjoy reading that much ourselves. In any event, it does seem that parents who are concerned about a decline in their kids' reading as the kids get older might consider more actively demonstrating their own love of reading...
Kids who have better access to books, at home and in school, are more likely to be frequent readers (though the study can only confirm correlation, not causation). There's a wide variety in terms of number of books in the home by demographic groups, of course. But I agree with the report writers that the most striking difference is that "frequent readers have an average of 139 books in their homes vs. 74 in infrequent readers’ homes." [See Figure 3. Click to enlarge.]
Kids who have plenty of books at home are going to be more likely to pick those books up. They're going to be more likely to find the book that hooks them. They are going to spend more time reading, and get better at it, and thus enjoy it more. Books in the home are key to raising readers. As a society, we need to do more to make sure that all kids have books in their homes. As individual parents, we should do what we can to provide books, too, of course.
Classroom libraries appear to matter, too. Kids who have access to "robust classroom libraries" are more likely at all ages surveyed to be frequent readers. Here are the numbers:
- "Among 6–8 year-olds, 60% of kids with a robust classroom library are frequent readers, compared to 51% of kids without a robust classroom library.
- Among 9–11 year-olds, this split is 40% vs. 31% and among 12–14 year-olds, the gap narrows to 26% vs. 23%.
- Among 15–17 year-olds, the gap widens once again with 17% of kids with a robust classroom library being frequent readers, compared to only 10% of kids without a robust classroom library (see Figure 4)"
The problem, though, as identified in the report, is that only a minority of kids (43%) do have access to a robust and accessible classroom library. The situation is a bit better in terms of school libraries (70% have a school library). However, in both cases an even smaller percentage says that the library has enough of the types of books that they like to read. Which brings us to...
And here's the big one. "In the 13 years of the Kids & Family Reading Report, one thing remains constant no matter what: when kids get to choose, they read. Across demographics, the majority of kids (89%) agree their favorite books are the ones that they have picked out themselves." This includes infrequent readers. Even the kids who aren't reading as much still appreciate the books that they pick out themselves more than other books.
The report also notes that "Four in 10 kids agree (42%) that they have trouble finding books that they like. This is far higher at 59% among infrequent readers and is true of roughly half of kids by age nine."
These two findings suggest that parents, teachers, and librarians need to give kids as much choice as possible when it comes to reading, while also giving them the help that they may need to find engaging books. This can be a bit of a balancing act, but it is critically important in nurturing young readers.
Recommendations for Parents
This section of the Kids and Family Reading Report suggests several recommendations for parents who would like to see their kids enter or remain in the "frequent readers" category.
- Let your kids know that you want them to enjoy reading, and that you think that spending time reading is important. Consider family Drop Everything and Read time. Let your child see you reading in bed. Try reading something in print instead of on a screen, because that's more visible. Extend bedtime as long as there is reading involved. Do whatever works to prioritize reading. Don't fake it, but if you can help them to see you as a reader, this will help them to see themselves as readers, too.
- Make sure your kids have plenty of books around them at home and support classroom and school libraries and school librarians in your district. If you can't afford new books, buy them used books and/or take them to the library. Keep those books handy so that kids will pick them up. I find the bathroom and the car to be the highest yield locations for impromptu home libraries, but your situation may vary. Kids won't read if they don't have books available.
- Last but definitely not least, whenever you can, let them choose what THEY want to read, not what you think they should read. Yes, graphic novels are real books. Yes, comics anthologies are real books. Yes, fact-based almanacs and joke books are real books. Kids in the Scholastic report specifically said that they enjoy funny books and diverse books, but of course individual kids vary. Help your kids to find the books that make them light up, and then get out of the way. Kids read when they enjoy the experience of reading, and the number one thing that makes them enjoy the experience is reading choice.
Many thanks to the Scholastic team who produced the Kids and Family Reading Report, and to whom the above images are attributed. I'll continue reading and will most likely share responses to other sections here, too.
Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!
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