Are we overlooking the real benefits of children reading?

Alison David

April 11th 2013 by Alison David

The first chapter of our new Reading Street report into children’s reading reveals that some of the key benefits of reading for pleasure in childhood are being over-looked because of a challenging set of circumstances faced by families and the way we live today.

Over the past 6 months we’ve been observing the reading habits of 12 families across the UK and we’ve also conducted a supporting study of over 1,000 parents of 2-16 year olds.

Consumer_Insight_logos13-4What we’ve found is that the fundamental aspects of being a child haven’t changed.  What motivates a child is consistent with our own, and our parents’ childhoods: fairies and princesses are still magical, goodies and baddies still excite, and, as they get older, the need to push the boundaries and to feel in control of their lives. These things haven’t changed.  What is changing is everything around them – society, education, parenting style – and that’s affecting reading for pleasure.

It’s tempting for people to want to point the finger at one single thing when we read headlines and statistics that say that reading for pleasure is in decline – whether that’s time poor parents, target driven schooling or the rise of screen time. As our Reading Street research unfolds we’re starting to see that it’s a combination of all those circumstances, all of which are adding up to pressure on reading. The victim right now is a time and a place in children’s lives for the simple but essential pleasure of reading.

During our Reading Street study, we asked parents to prioritise the most important benefits of reading to younger children from a list of ten benefits.  The three benefits considered of most importance  were Language development (64%), Improving imagination (51%) and Giving them a head-start at school (37%). Considered of least importance were Social development (11%), Emotional development (10%) and Increasing self-esteem (8%). Children reading is firmly associated with their education and betterment.  There seems little appreciation of the magic and pure pleasure of a great story.

Over half of parents we spoke to wished they had more time for reading with their children, which is fantastically positive, but many simply didn’t feel they could prioritise it. We’ve also found that in many families reading still thrives, and through our Reading Street study we want to find out how and why, and what it’s going to take to inspire more children to read.

We think it’s time for a reassessment of the value of reading for pleasure in a child’s development.

We would love to hear your thoughts and welcome you to join in our conversation about reading and children today, here on our blog or on Twitter @EgmontUK  #ReadingLives.