Today (20 May) the National Literacy Trust has released a report on children and young people's reading habits. Our CEO, Sue Wilkinson, comments on the findings of the report and how libraries, parents and carers can all help to make reading inspiring, exciting and fun.
Today has seen the launch of Children's and Young People's Reading in 2014 by the National Literacy Trust. We always await the results of their annual survey of 32,000 children and young people between the ages of eight and eighteen with huge interest; this year, particularly in the context of the Read On. Get On. campaign which we all support, the report makes for very interesting reading. It highlights the impact of the work we are all doing to get and keep children and young people reading, but it also shows the work that still needs to be done.
Research shows that reading for pleasure is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background* yet in the UK today 1 in 5 children still cannot read well by the age of 11.** It is great news that levels of daily reading have increased and that the Summer Reading Challenge is one of the programmes that has contributed to this. However, there is still a long way to go.
The role of public libraries
Public libraries play an invaluable role in supporting the drive to get more people reading more, which is why all The Reading Agency's programmes are developed and delivered in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and with the Association of Senior Children's and Education Librarians. Our shared programmes, like the Summer Reading Challenge, which will be running in Scottish libraries from 20 June and in English and Welsh libraries from 11 July, are designed to make reading fun, something which children learn, from a very early age, to enjoy and something they do with their families and their friends.
The report has many interesting findings; one that particularly interested us is that the gender gap is still an issue in children's reading, with girls edging further ahead than boys:
Almost half (46.5%) of girls say that they read outside class on a daily basis compared with over a third of boys (35.8%). (This compares with 36.6% of girls and 28.2% of boys in 2013).
Our evaluation of the Summer Reading Challenge 2014 shows just how important programmes like this are helping to buck this trend. Of the 839,622 children who took part in 2014, 44% were boys. A great result and one we hope will continue in 2015.
Maintaining this upward trajectory
For the upward trajectory this research has identified to continue, we also need every adult to be able to read well and to enjoy reading. They are critical role models but they also have to be confident about reading to and with their children, seeing it as something that they want to do with them. It is why we are continuing to develop our adult reading programmes and why we support so many reading groups. ASCEL's recent research to map children's reading journeys shows just how important this integrated approach is to meeting the challenges identified in the National Literacy Trust research.
As Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, rightly says, there is still a lot to be done to spread the word about the power and importance of reading; to get everyone involved in reading with their children and making reading something they think is fun, inspiring and exciting. It is why we are very glad to be working with all partners in the Read On. Get On. campaign and why we and all our library partners are looking forward to the launch of this year's Summer Reading Challenge. This year's theme is Record Breakers and it's all about achieving your personal best when it comes to reading. So please head to your local library this summer to pick out books for your children, or try out something new yourself.
Find out more about the Summer Reading Challenge
Read the National Literacy Trust's report in full
*OECD (2002) Reading for Change: Performance and engagement across countries p.16-17
**National curriculum assessments at key stage 2, 2014 - from DfE (2015) Reading: the next steps p.13