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State of Kids and Family Reading Report

The every other year about how 6-17 year old students just came out based on the Fall 2014 data.  

Here are their big points about their findings:

Kids & Reading 

  • Half of all children ages 6–17 (51%) are currently reading a book for fun and another one in five (20%) just finished one. 
  • Both parents of children ages 6–17 (71%) and kids (54%) rank strong reading skills as the most important skill a child should have. Yet while 86% of parents say reading books for fun is extremely or very important, only 46% of kids say the same. 
  • Three-quarters of parents with children ages 6–17 (75%) agree “I wish my child would read more books for fun,” and 71% agree “I wish my child would do more things that did not involve screen time.” 

What Makes Frequent Readers 

  •  Frequent readers, defined as children who read books for fun 5–7 days a week, differ substantially in a number of ways from infrequent readers—those who read books for fun less than one day a week. For instance, 97% of frequent readers ages 6–17 say they are currently reading a book for fun or have just finished one, while 75% of infrequent readers say they haven’t read a book for fun in a while. 
  • Children ages 6–11 who are frequent readers read an average of 43.4 books per year, whereas infrequent readers in this age group read only 21.1 books annually. An even more profound difference occurs among children ages 12–17, with frequent readers reading 39.6 books annually and infrequent readers reading only 4.7 books per year. 
  • There are several predictors that children ages 6–17 will be frequent readers. Three dynamics among the most powerful predictors are: 1) being more likely to rate themselves as “really enjoying reading”; 2) a strong belief that reading for fun is important and; 3) having parents who are frequent readers. 
  • Additional factors that predict children ages 6–11 will be frequent readers include reading aloud early and often, specific characteristics kids want in books and spending less time online using a computer. 
  • Additional factors that predict children ages 12–17 will be frequent readers include reading a book of choice independently in school, ereading experiences, a large home library, having been told their reading level and having parents involved in their reading habits.

Reading Aloud at Home 

  •  More than half of children ages 0–5 (54%) are read aloud to at home 5–7 days a week. This declines to only one in three kids ages 6–8 (34%) and to one in six kids ages 9–11 (17%); four in 10 children ages 6–11 who were read books aloud at home (40%) say they wished their parents had continued reading aloud to them. 
  • When it comes to being read aloud to at home, more than eight in 10 children (83%) across age groups say they love(d) or like(d) it a lot—the main reason being it was a special time with parents. 
Reading with Kids from Birth 
  •  Nearly three-quarters of parents with children ages 0–5 (73%) say they started reading aloud to their child before age one, yet only 30% say they began before the age of three months. 
  • Six in 10 parents with children ages 0–5 (60%) have received advice that children should be read aloud to from birth; however, just under half of parents in the lowest-income households (47%) received this advice vs. 74% in the highest income households. 

Reading in School 

  • One third of children ages 6–17 (33%) say their class has a designated time during the school day to read a book of choice independently, but only 17% do this every or almost every school day. 
  •  Half of children ages 6–17 who read independently as a class or school (52%) say it’s one of their favorite parts of the day or wish it would happen more often.
  • School plays a bigger role in reading books for fun among children in lower-income homes. Sixty-one percent of children ages 6–17 from the lowest-income homes say they read for fun mostly in school or equally at school and at home, while 32% of kids ages 6–17 from the highest-income homes say the same.

What Kids Want in Books 

  •  Ninety-one percent of children ages 6–17 say “my favorite books are the ones that I have picked out myself.” 
  •  The majority of kids ages 6–17 (70%) say they want books that “make me laugh.” Kids also want books that “let me use my imagination” (54%), “tell a made-up story” (48%), “have characters I wish I could be like because they’re smart, strong or brave” (43%), “teach me something new” (43%) and “have a mystery or a problem to solve” (41%).

Print Books in a Digital World 

  •  While the percentage of children who have read an ebook has increased across all age groups since 2010 (25% vs. 61%), the majority of children who have read an ebook say most of the books they read are in print (77%). 
  • Nearly two-thirds of children (65%)—up from 2012 (60%)—agree that they’ll always want to read books in print even through there are ebooks available. 

To me there are many things here that are important, not just the fluctuating reading amounts but we should also be looking at the associated data and information. Consider the points about frequent readers with younger (6-11) being 43.4 books/year and infrequent being 21.1 books/year, and then as they become teenagers it shifts to frequent 39.6 books/year and infrequent being 4.7 books/year. I find this a concern as just looking at the mean doesn't tell you enough. Last year the PEW report on reading (based on 2013 data) reported that among readers the typical American (who reads books) read five books over the last year. But in checking my personal records, I found that for last year I read over 100 books that year, and in doing a search I found quite a few others, and in LibraryThing I found a group of 62 members who regularly read over a 1000. In thinking back to my high school days, I know that there were a good number of years that I read over 100 books during the school year. So if you consider those "children" then it may only take a few outliers to skew the results. When you look at the predictors like they enjoy reading, think that reading is fun and having parents who read a lot, those things make sense (although again outliers, I can never remember seeing my parent actually read a book, so it isn't an absolute). That FUN part I think is really important, and should make people want to look at what students are reading and what they are being made to read. That section on what students wanted in books where 91% indicated that their favorite books picked out by themselves. When I think back on what I read in Jr High and High School, I don't remember most of the books that I was made to read, not that I didn't necessarily like them or that something didn't expose me to a new genre that I liked, but that most of it didn't relate to what I wanted to read. I contributed my own success at school not just because people were teaching me, and that many were good teachers, but in also because I found things that I liked to read and had the opportunity to keep reading them. For me this really started around 6-7th grade when I would go into the Tappen Book Mine (a used book store almost across the street from my school) and would pick out a book read it or if I didn't like it stop reading it. Then if I liked it Mr. Tappen would happily show me other books that were like that (today that would be like the suggestions from Amazon). I gradually moved from stopping in once a week or so to every other day, some times spending some of my lunch money on books (adding a new aspect of hungry to read).  The freedom of choice and the opportunity for more let me develop that love of reading that continues today. If they only thing that students have to read are books that are forced upon them or limited to what someone else has selected then they don't get started on the reading process and don't develop those skills/abilities - think exercise or second languages, if you don't do it while you are younger it is harder to do it later.  I remember in one high school physics class that I taught, I had a classroom library that students were welcome to read from and that they could get extra credit if they wanted to go beyond the book to do some research on any science topic they found within the book - I tried to make it a wide range of genres including action, mystery, adventure, romance, science fiction, nonfiction, picture books and more. One student came to me after reading one novel with his short report and returned his book. He then told me that he had really liked the book and confessed that it was the only book he had read that year or last, and then he asked if that author had any others. In looking at the title in his report it was Shock Wave by Clive Cussler. I happily told him that yes, Clive Cussler did indeed write some other books and that we had quite a few in our school library and gave him a pass to go find another. So lets all remember to give kids the opportunity, access, time, and encouragement to find something that would like to read and let them do it, then perhaps those reading averages will start to increase.


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