With the new school year now underway, the nation’s schools return to serving the millions of young minds settling into their classrooms, including 300,000 pre-schoolers. As educators, parents, and as a community, we want each child to succeed, and literacy is an important key to academic achievement. Yet, we recognise the struggle to keep kids engaged with reading in a world of increasing distraction, and one in which many enter school already behind. So, what can you do to help? To answer that question, we are thrilled to share with you the inaugural edition of Scholastic Australia’s Kids & Family Reading Report™—a study of Australian children’s and parents’ attitudes and behaviours toward reading for pleasure. The study examines the significance of reading independently for fun at school, what impacts frequent reading, the importance of reading aloud to children of all ages, and the books children want most to read.
It is not a mystery that the more children read, the better readers they become, and the better readers they become, the more they enjoy reading. It’s a tried-and-true premise. To that end, we asked: what makes children frequent readers? Independent reading at school, parental involvement at home, and the power of book choice are vital in this regard.
Children who are given time for independent reading at school—many of whom wish it would happen more often—are more likely to be reading currently and frequently, more likely to say reading books for fun is important, and more likely to enjoy reading, compared with those who are not. We found similar patterns among children whose principals encourage reading for fun. However, the report found only 44% of children say they have an opportunity to read independently in school as a class or school, and far fewer (16%) are given the chance to do this every or almost every school day. Having these opportunities to read in school is particularly important for older children, who are the least likely to be given the time to do so.
A powerful call to families is also found in the Kids & Family Reading Report™. Our research shows that having parents who are reading role models is crucial for older children; for younger kids, using specific strategies such as limiting screen time and making reading a routine encourages reading books for fun. What is even more important? Read-aloud time.
Across all ages, frequently reading aloud to kids is a powerful predictor that children will become frequent readers, and kids love it. Nearly nine in 10 children say they love(d) or like(d) being read aloud to a lot, with the main reason being that it is a special time with their parents. Among kids aged 6–8 whose parents have stopped reading aloud to them, half wish their parents had continued. And we found that you can never start early enough: while 59% of parents with children aged 0–5 years say they started reading aloud to their children before age one, only 26% say they began before the age of 3 months.
Finally, we heard loud and clear from our nation’s children that they want the power of choice. More than 90% agree that “my favourite books are the ones that I have picked out myself,” and 89% say, “I am more likely to finish reading a book that I have picked out myself.” Above all, kids want books that make them laugh, and it is encouraging to learn that many children “feel proud and have a sense of accomplishment when I finish reading a book.”
For more than 45 years, Scholastic Australia has partnered with Australian schools to help children learn to read, love to read, and find the books that inspire them. We’ve also held steadfastly to our belief that independent reading for pleasure is a critical part of a child’s learning and growth, and that we as a community can affect positive and lasting reading habits. It is our fervent hope that you find this report useful and will share the data to build a strong national movement in support of independent reading both at school and home. There are accessible actions we can all take so that we can get more kids reading, and kids reading more: provide access to books at all times; be a reading role model; read aloud; encourage independent reading; and allow children the freedom to choose books they want to read.
Finding the right book at the right time can light an emotional spark within children that motivates them to read more, understand more and read joyfully. When that happens, the world opens and everything becomes possible. We can think of no better gift, and together we can build a country of readers.
Managing Director, Scholastic Australia & New Zealand