Just half of three- and four-year-olds are read to every day

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New research shows that the number of pre-school children being read to daily at home has fallen by a fifth since 2013.

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The research suggests a decline in the number of pre-school children that are read to daily

The annual Understanding of the Children’s Book Consumer survey by Nielsen Book Research, funded by publisher Egmont, shows that just 51 per cent of three- and four-year-olds were read to daily last year, down from 69 per cent five years earlier.

More than 1,590 parents of children from birth to 13 and 417 parents of 14-to 17-year-olds took part in the survey last autumn.

The reasons parents gave for not reading to their child daily included not having enough energy at the end of the day (19 per cent) and that their child preferred to do other things (16 per cent).­­

The publisher Egmont said the decline correlated with an increase of almost a fifth in the proportion of toddlers watching online video content daily between 2013 and 2017, and warned the ‘steep decline in three and four-year-olds reading and being read to signalled a ‘significant threat to child development, with potential long-term social impact.’

Three in five parents of young children surveyed said that they worry about the amount of time their child spends in front of a screen.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • One in five parents of children aged three and four said they didn’t feel comfortable in bookshops.
  • Nearly half of parents (46 per cent) are overwhelmed by the choice of children’s books.
  • Parents feel anxious about taking ‘disruptive’ children into a bookshop or library.

Alison David, consumer insight director at Egmont Publishing, said, ‘It’s no surprise that parents of toddlers are exhausted – the pressure on families is enormous, especially as parents struggle to balance returning to work and meaningful time at home. However, at such a crucial time in a child’s development, it’s essential that parents understand the enormous benefits that reading for pleasure will bring both them and their child, both in terms of attainment and enjoyment. As an industry, we have a responsibility to help parents: if a parent is a reluctant reader themselves and isn’t enjoying reading to their children or visiting bookshops and libraries, it’s very difficult to nurture a love of reading in the child.’

Alongside the survey, Egmont has published findings from its Reading Magic Project, which aimed to transform families’ reading experience at home, and its Print Matters More research that explored whether it is possible to turn reluctant child readers into passionate readers.

Reading Magic Project

In Autumn 2017, Egmont partnered with Whsmith to see whether weekly in-store sessions with a professional storyteller would inspire reading and book buying in parents.

After six weeks, parents that took part recorded a marked improvement in their own reading skills, along with a reassessment of reading as an enjoyable shared experience instead of a chore.

Print Matters More

For the research, Egmont partnered with independent retailer Foyles. The aim of Print Matters More was to develop a reading culture among primary school children.

A total of 15 families of reluctant readers took part. Every week, parents were given a £10 Foyles voucher to spend on a new book for their children. All parents agreed to read with their children for 20 minutes each day.

Findings from the research showed that it had a 'profound impact' on relationships between parent and child, while being read to had a 'powerful influence' on children's own reading. At the end of the project, parents were given £100 as a thank you for taking part.

A blueprint of Print Matters More is currently being developed in partnership with the University of Central Lancashire and recreated in an area of deprivation in the North East.

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