Only 31 percent of school-age children read for fun on most days, according to a new Scholastic report. That’s down from 37 percent four years ago.
Frequent readers aged six to 11 are more likely to say their parents read aloud with them, even after they could read to themselves, notes the New York Times. Restrictions on online time also correlated with frequent reading for pleasure.
For children ages 12 to 17, “one of the largest predictors was whether they had time to read on their own during the school day.”
Children say reading aloud is a special bonding time with parents, said Kristen Harmeling, who worked on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ report urging parent to read to their children from birth.
Of course, children who love to read are generally immersed in households with lots of books and parents who like to read. So while parents who read to their children later in elementary school may encourage those children to become frequent readers on their own, such behavior can also result from “a whole constellation of other things that goes on in those families,” said Timothy Shanahan, professor emeritus of urban education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a past president of the International Reading Association.
There is not yet strong research that connects reading aloud at older ages to improved reading comprehension. But some literacy experts said that when parents or teachers read aloud to children even after they can read themselves, the children can hear more complex words or stories than they might tackle themselves.
Other literacy experts say reading to children — or talking with them — helps develop background knowledge. “A two-minute conversation about something on television or something in a magazine or something that you’re reading yourself can also have some of the same positive effects as reading aloud,” said Catherine Snow, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
I disliked reading aloud — it’s so slow — and was pleased when my daughter learned to read books on her own. (She could read at the age of three and read fluently at four.) However, we spent a lot of time discussing what she was reading, doing and thinking about, as well as talking about the larger world.
Here’s more on the Scholastic survey and kids picking the books they want to read, which may not be very challenging.