Children in Britain and Ireland are reading fewer books, research reports


By AGENCY

Following a survey of over 1.2 million British and Irish schoolchildren, the authors of this study found that reading for pleasure (not for school/study) is declining sharply among young people. Photo: AFP

If you're around children, chances are you may have seen more of them in front of a screen than a book. Indeed, fewer and fewer young people read for pleasure. And when they do, they rarely tackle intellectually challenging works, a new British report reveals.

"The ability to read is probably the most important cognitive skill that we can pass on to our children," says Natalie Perera, chief executive of the Education Policy Institute think tank, in the 2024 edition of the "What Kids Are Reading" report.

Following a survey of over 1.2 million British and Irish schoolchildren, the authors of this study found that reading for pleasure (not for school/study) is declining sharply among young people.

In total, the pupils surveyed read almost 26 million books in one year, representing a 4.4% drop on the previous year. This decline is particularly noticeable among girls and 8-11 year-olds, two population categories that traditionally show a keen interest in reading.

The study also points out that young people tend to turn away from books when they start secondary school. But this doesn't mean that middle and high school students never read in their free time: 40.8% of 14-16 year-olds say they do. This is well up on the 32% recorded in 2005. Overall, however, the percentage of children and teenagers who read every day in their free time has fallen, from 38% in 2005 to 28% in 2023.

When young people open a book, what do they choose? Unsurprisingly, they prefer works of fiction. Julia Donaldson and Roald Dahl are among the children's favourite authors. Teenagers prefer John Steinbeck, George Orwell and J.K. Rowling.

While the authors of the report do not paint a gloomy picture, they are concerned about a decline in the reading levels of young people in Britain and Ireland.

"As in many previous years, average book difficulty rose as pupils became older, but not in proportion to the rate at which the pupils should have been improving in reading," they note. As a result, secondary school pupils find themselves reading books whose level of difficulty is more appropriate for primary school pupils.

It therefore seems urgent for public authorities to find ways to restore young people's taste for reading.

"We need to ramp up our efforts to instill a genuine love of reading amongst children and young people," notes Natalie Perera.

"That means actively listening to them and being guided by their passion and motivations." - AFP

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Reading , habits , books , Britain , Ireland , survey , children , students

   

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