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A New Report Says Kids Are Reading Less, But Things Aren't Hopeless

When I was a little girl I lived in a house full of readers. It wasn't uncommon to walk into the kitchen to see my mom stirring some sauce with a book under her nose. This definitely informed me as a child, gave me a sense that getting lost in a book was a luxury to be cherished. A gift to be protected and cultivated... a gift parents might be in danger of losing with their own kids. A new report found that kids are reading less, unfortunately, but not for the reason you might think.

Worldwide children's book publishing company Scholastic recently released their biennial report about children's reading, and it looks a bit grim. This time around the company surveyed 1,000 kids ages 6 to 17 as well as their parents, plus 678 parents of children between the ages of 0 through 5 years old. The seventh edition of the Kids & Family Reading Report was geared to help Scholastic and other publishing companies try to understand the changing needs of young readers and their parents. As Scholastic CEO and Chairman Richard Robinson noted in a press release, "This seventh edition highlights the importance of children feeling seen and heard, and acknowledges the social-emotional value of reading. The child with access to reading is a child better prepared to navigate the challenges of an unpredictable future."

This year's report uncovered some upsetting results; it appears there is a steady drop of interest in books and reading for pleasure around the third grade, which is considered a pivotal year in the development of a child's academic growth, as per RW & C for Reading. While 57 percent of 8-year-old kids said they read for fun five to seven times per week, that number went down to 35 percent within one year. The number dropped more than 20 percent despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of parents (88 percent) said they believed reading fiction and non-fiction books would help their kids navigate the world.

So why the decline? According to the study, kids simply aren't finding books they feel connected to. The study found that more than half of kids in that age group want books that will:

  • Make them laugh
  • Help them explore new things
  • Allow them to learn about new topics

The majority of both parents and kids agree that they want to see more diversity in their books where they can read about different cultures, religions, backgrounds, and customs that aren't part of their daily lives. As Lauren Tarshis, SVP & editor-in-chief/publisher of Scholastic Magazines noted in the press release:

The research also has a powerful message from kids that they want to read, but not just any book.

So how do parents help with that?

The survey found that 82 percent of kids who read more frequently for pleasure tended to have reading role models in the home who also read for pleasure. Children not only need access to books they can choose for themselves (89 percent of kids said they prefer books they picked out), they also need to see people actively enjoying reading.

While seeing a steep decline in kids reading around the third grade is cause for concern, there is some good news in this survey as well. Kids want to read... they're just looking for a little parental example and the right book.

All is not lost.