Study: In-School Reading Time Is Key to Building Love of Reading

By Jordan Moeny — January 08, 2015 2 min read
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A recent study by Scholastic takes a look at the habits of frequent readers, finding that in-school opportunities to read books independently and reading aloud are strongly associated with frequent readers.

The study was conducted by YouGov on behalf of the children’s book publisher and included 2,558 parents and children, including just over 1,000 children between the ages of 6 and 17 and their parents. Participants were selected at random from across the United States and completed the survey online.

The survey shows that 71 percent of children ages 6 to 17 either just finished or are currently reading a book for fun. However, students regularly read books for fun slightly less often than in previous years.

The percentage of children reading for fun frequently (at least five days per week) drops steadily as children get older, falling from 53 percent among ages 6 through 8 to just 14 percent for ages 15 through 17. This is in spite of results showing that a plurality of respondents (44 percent) enjoy reading more now than when they were younger; the difference may come from an increasing number of distractions, as older children were far more likely to report using cell phones, social media, and other technology.

One caveat: The survey puts reading solely in terms of book use, but the social networks that older children visit may end up with them reading a great deal of articles or stories online; the survey doesn’t distinguish.

The vast majority--78 percent--of frequent readers between ages 12 and 17 say that they read “a book of choice independently during the school day,” suggesting that opportunities for reading in school could be a major factor in students’ enjoyment of reading. However, children also have much different circumstances for reading independently based on age. Roughly half of all children between ages 6 and 11 have dedicated class time for independent reading, but that percentage drops dramatically as students get older:

In-school reading is especially important for students from lower-income households. While students of all backgrounds read for fun at roughly the same rate, 61 percent of students in the lowest income bracket say that they do their reading “mostly in school” or “about the same at home and in school,” compared to just 32 percent of the highest bracket. Meanwhile, only 26 percent of low-income children read “mostly at home.”

One of the top predictors of reading frequency for children ages 6 to 11 is reading aloud: 41 percent of frequent readers in that age group say that someone currently reads aloud to them, compared to only 13 percent of infrequent readers. While the study focused on parents who read aloud to their children, it does raise the question of whether or not teachers who read aloud in class can fill that role for the quarter of children whose parents stop reading out loud by the time the child is 9 years old.

Younger children who read frequently are also more likely than infrequent readers to say that they look for books “that let me use my imagination” (55 percent) or that “have characters that look like me” (28 percent), suggesting that a wide variety of book options could encourage students to read more often. This is particularly significant given the importance of establishing reading proficiency in a child’s early years of school, as reported in a story for the latest edition of Quality Counts from Education Week.

Images: Scholastic, Kids & Family Reading Report, 5th edition

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.