New report shows decline in children’s reading for pleasure and daily reading habits

As World Book Day Director calls on parents and carers everywhere to put reading together at the heart of their World Book Day activities – and share a story with children and young people for 10 minutes today, and every day

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New research published for World Book Day (7th March) by the National Literacy Trust reveals that significantly fewer children and young people say they enjoy reading or read daily outside class than last year.

Worryingly, the new findings suggest that this decline is in fact a trend, with just over half (52.5%) of 8-18-year-olds reading for pleasure in 2019, down from 58.8% in 2016, and only a quarter (25.7%) reading daily, compared with 43% in 2015.

Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success, more so than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or income. What’s more, research shows that parents reading with their child for as little as 10 minutes a day can make a significant difference to the child’s achievement levels and shared reading has the single biggest impact on a child’s independent reading habits.

World Book Day reaches 15 million children and young people in 45,000 schools every year and, according to the National Literacy Trust’s new research, has the power to stem the downward trend in children’s reading practices and views. Children who took part in World Book Day last year were much more likely to enjoy reading than their peers (78.7% vs 56.1%) and twice as likely to read daily outside school (47.7% vs 24.1%). A third of children (34.5%) said they read more with their parents as a result of World Book Day, with half of those saying this encouraged them to read more independently.

Kirsten Grant, Director of World Book Day, the charity behind the UK and Ireland’s biggest reading for pleasure campaign, said: ‘We know that a love of reading can transform a child’s future, helping them to do well at school, get a good job and live a happy and successful life – and yet these latest figures from the National Literacy Trust tell us that reading for pleasure is in long-term decline. This is why we are calling on parents and carers everywhere to put reading together at the heart of their World Book Day activities this year. Whether your children are dressed up today or not, sit down with them for ten minutes on World Book Day, and every day – and share a story. We all know how important it is to our children’s health to give them their five a day; and it’s just as important for their wellbeing to read with them for ten a day. Our ambition is to restore reading for pleasure as a celebrated national pastime for all.’

The new research comes just days after Nielsen’s Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer Survey 2018 revealed that the majority of boys and over half of girls in every age group preferred using and watching screens to reading books, with 76% of 8-10-year-old boys and 58% of girls in the same age group championing screen time.

Book ownership is also key to children developing a love of reading, yet ‘book poverty’ is a very real issue: for 1 in 3 children receiving free school meals, the book they ‘bought’ with their 2016 World Book Day £1 book token was the first they had ever personally owned. What’s more, 1 in 8 disadvantaged children in the UK don’t own a single book; yet, those who do own a book are 15 times more likely to read above the level expected for their age and four times less likely to read below the expected level.

World Book Day is putting more books than ever into its campaign to provide every child and young person in the country with a book of their own this year and has introduced a range of new initiatives that will help to get books directly into the hands of those who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. Through its newly rebranded Share a Story Live tour, World Book Day will bring authors and illustrators to communities across the UK where low levels of literacy are seriously impacting people’s lives. These include Dundee, Bradford, Swindon and Manchester – all areas where the National Literacy Trust works to bring together local businesses, health, education and cultural organisations to help tackle literacy challenges in the community. Having the chance to be inspired by a range of authors and illustrators will have an enormous impact on how the children in the audience view books and reading.

Kirsten Grant said: ‘We are working in a strategic partnership with the National Literacy Trust this year to provide access to books in communities where low levels of literacy are having a serious impact. Travelling the country, our Share a Story Live tour will give children the chance to be inspired by authors and illustrators, and take home a book – often for the first time. Also in 2019, World Book Day is distributing £1 books to all HM prisons in England and Wales, providing 20,000 free books for prisoners to read with visiting children. At one stroke it reaches the families most in need of literacy support.’

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, said: ‘World Book Day is the most successful public awareness campaign for celebrating books and reading. We’re delighted that World Book Day is bringing their Share a Story Live events to four communities across the UK where we work with local partners to transform lives through literacy. These wonderful events will help to inspire thousands of children to fall in love with reading by putting books into children’s hands and introducing them to a truly magical line up of authors, illustrators and stories.’

Lauren Child, Waterstones Children’s Laureate and author of Hubert Horatio, said: ‘Reading aloud with your child at any age is a wonderful way of connecting because you see what excites and interests them, and it’s also a way of understanding what’s going inside their head. It’s a lovely way of winding down at the end of a day for both parent and child. And it’s letting them know by example that books are a good thing, creating a habit of reading and a special bond. For children, reading can be a gateway to learning but also to happiness.’

Cressida Cowell, author of the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ and ‘Wizards of Once’ books, said: ‘This research shows the increasing need for, but also the efficacy of, the essential work that World Book Day carries out. It is even more important than ever to encourage reading for pleasure and to try and get books into the hands of as many children as possible. So I’d encourage everyone to look in the bottom of those book bags, take out those tokens and choose your free book from a local bookshop near you. There are things we can all do to reverse this worrying trend of a decline in children reading for the joy of it , and that is where the Share a Story campaign comes in. Parents, grandparents, carers, teachers can all help by reading aloud to kids way beyond the age that they can read for themselves. Ten minutes a day really does make a difference.’

Find more information, and join the conversation via: | @WorldBookDayUK

Notes to Editors

World Book Day’s #ShareAStory campaign:

Share a Story is the theme at the heart of a 3-year World Book Day campaign, encouraging parents and carers to share stories with their children for ten minutes every day. Sharing stories together – anywhere, anytime – for just ten minutes a day has long-lasting effects on a child’s future. World Book Day aims to inspire new reading habits for adults and children, underlining just how important this shared time is.

The Duchess of Cornwall and the European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake lead celebrations on World Book Day, and the reading for pleasure charity has signed up a host of public figures to support its Share a Story campaign on social media. Gary Barlow, Marian Keyes, Yotam Ottolenghi, Mary Portas, Humza Arshad, Victoria Hislop, Stuart Turton, Cressida Cowell, Tom Fletcher, Muhammed Khan and Anton du Beke and many others will champion the message on social media, sharing the stories that inspired them as children and posting pictures of reading with children and young people, using the #ShareAStory hashtag.

World Book Day in prisons:

World Book Day is increasing its work with prisons, by distributing 20,000 books to all 119 prisons in the UK for the first time, providing prisoners with the opportunity to share books with their children at visiting time.

About World Book Day:

World Book Day is the registered charity behind the world’s biggest annual celebration of children’s books. It is dedicated to celebrating the benefits of reading for pleasure for everyone, everywhere – promoting the magic of books, the power of imagination and the importance of sharing stories. Designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, World Book Day is marked in over 100 countries around the globe.

It is sponsored by National Book Tokens and supported generously each year by the publishing industry, book trade, authors and illustrators. Every year, with a host of publishers and booksellers, World Book Day curates a list of bespoke £1 books for children and young people across the UK and Ireland. World Book Day’s mission is to encourage children and young people to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own. To mark the day each year, children are welcomed into bookshops and supermarkets across the nation where they can redeem their £1 World Book Day book token (or equivalent €1.50 in Ireland) to redeem for a free World Book Day title or, if they prefer, they can use it to get £1 off any book or audiobook of their choice, costing £2.99 or more. The day also sees children bringing books to life through an array of organised events and activities in schools, bookshops, libraries and at home.

About National Book Tokens:

National Book Tokens are the perfect gift for book lovers everywhere and are the only gift cards sold and accepted in bookshops across the UK and Ireland, including all the major chains and local independents. As proud sponsors of World Book Day, National Book Tokens supports lifelong learning and improving literacy and access to reading for everyone.

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