More Pleasure Reading Than We Suspected?

  • alphabet
  • 13 June, 2008

There was more information on pleasure reading published this week in a report from Scholastic, a publisher with a deep financial interest in children’s and adolescent reading. This report, unlike other recent reports, does not paint such a bleak picture of the reading crisis in America. They interviewed more than 500 kids from preschool through age 17 and found that 90% of kids thought reading was important for learning, and that about 75% of kids indicated that they read for pleasure at least once a week (almost 25% claim to read every day). The major reason that they say they don’t read for pleasure is because they have other things to do, like working on computers. Some of that time might be spent on just dumb video games, but at least some of it is spent on other reading and writing activities (two-thirds of the kids said they have looked up authors and other book-related information online).

  The bad news in the report (and this is not new—I’ve found surveys all the way back to World War I with the same pattern) is that older students read less than younger students do. Preschoolers like books more than elementary kids do, and elementary kids like them more than teens. Similarly, boys were somewhat less taken with reading than were girls.

  Of course, this is all self-report (though there was some corroboration from parents in this study). Kids might be reading, but perhaps they don’t read enough when they do read, and maybe they don’t push themselves to read more challenging or worthwhile stuff. In any event, the big problem with kids reading is not that they don’t see its value or that they never practice—neither is true for most kids, not even for adolescent males. Indeed, it would be great if kids practiced reading more—but, the report suggests to me that the problem here has less to do with convincing kids that they like reading, and more to do with making sure they can read well enough that their reading skills match their interest levels (nothing worse than wanting to read a book that matches that emotional and developmental interests of a young teen and finding that you can only handle primary texts—sort of like being on an all liquid diet).

  The questions to parents indicated that preschool and primary grade parents read to their kids, but that parents of older students do not. While this isn’t surprising, I can’t say that it makes me happy. I read to my own children until they were in 8th grade, but that was more for closeness between us than to help them read. To help them read better the research indicates that I would have been better off listening to them read or at least talking to them about what they were reading and what it meant. Sadly many parents back away from "reading with kids" once they stop reading to kids, and that is a big mistake.

  Set aside time for your family to read (yes, turn off the TV and limit access to the computers and cell phones). Listen to your kids read. Talk to them about the ideas in the books they are reading. Show an interest in their reading lives (my two daughters are grown up and accomplished young women: one is a managing editor/lawyer and one is a bio-engineer: I rarely get together with either of them when the conversation doesn’t turn to what they are reading).


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More Pleasure Reading Than We Suspected?


One of the world’s premier literacy educators.

He studies reading and writing across all ages and abilities. Feel free to contact him.