Some depressing news about children and reading

The U.K.’s National Literary Trust today released a report on children’s reading. And while the 21,000 kids who participated in the online survey, conducted late last year, were all from the U.K., there’s some very sad news in it.

No one probably would be surprised that it found that more children (54%) prefer watching television to reading. But what I found most depressing is that not only do 22% of the kids rarely or never read in their own time, 17% said they would be embarrassed if their friends saw them reading. Those figures increase to 26% and 22%, respectively, among kids who receive free school meals, which the study used to measure socioeconomic background.

I know it’s sometimes a struggle to get kids to read but it’s really a shame some feel embarrassed to do so. A person can only hope that even though they are embarrassed to read in front of their friends, they are still doing so in private.

Perhaps e-readers and tablets are part of a potential solution. They mean a kid could be seen with a shiny electronic device rather than a dusty old book. Given the growing accessibility of e-books from libraries, perhaps if schools furnished e-readers beginning at a certain age, a kid won’t be so embarrassed to be seen reading.

Still, it does not bode well for literacy when a child is embarrassed to read.

The books I read as a child transformed me, gave meaning and perspective to my experiences. and helped to mould whatever imaginative, intellectual or creative strengths I can lay claim to now. No doll or game had that impact on me, no pair of jeans ever changed my life.

Michelle Landsberg, Guide to Children’s Books

1 comment to Some depressing news about children and reading

  • Sadly, it has been this way for a long time. I’m 64 years old and I remember hiding my love for reading from my neighborhood friends (boys and girls, alike) because so few of them shared that love. So I spent half my summers playing sports and the other half indoors reading. It didn’t kill my love for reading, though, as I’m probably as avid a reader now as I was as a kid. I think, as you noted, the real threat to literacy is television and all those game consoles that I see my grandsons spending their lives hooked up to. Can’t seem to get through to them – but my granddaughter is an avid reader, so I still have hope for the boys.