20 September 2008

Book Time

New research reveals daily reading to children diminishes as pressures on parents increase Children now spending more than twice the time watching TV versus reading with parents or carers. It is widely acknowledged that one of the most important things a parent or carer can do to help their children's learning and development is to inspire a love of books and reading. But independent new research* commissioned for Booktime and Booked Up published today reveals that it is harder than ever for parents and carers to find the time to read with their children.

Findings include:
  • Daily reading aloud with children has decreased over the last two years. In 2006, 43% of parents of young children read to them daily but this figure has now dropped to one in three in 2008.
  • 23% of parents never or rarely read aloud with their children. For those who do, just one third of parents read with their offspring on a daily basis.
  • Mum takes the lead reading role: Mum is still the chief reader (64% of mums of 4-5 year olds say that they are the principle ‘reader' with their child compared to just 12% of dads). Among parents of 11-12 year olds, mums still dominate, with 46% stating that they are the principle reader compared to just one in 20 dads.
  • Time and tiredness stopping parents reading more: Top three reasons why parents/carers do not read more with children include: too much else to do (35%), tiredness (30%) and busy cooking dinner (25%).
  • Age of parent determines who reads the most with children: The older the mum, the less likely they are to read most with their child. Conversely, the older the father, the more likely they are to read most with their offspring.
  • Poetry reading not popular with the Scots but a hit with Londoners: 47% of Glasgow parents state that they never read poetry with their offspring. However, poetry is still a much loved genre among many Brits including London parents who claim the highest rate of weekly (or more) poetry reading with their children.
  • Poetry classics stand the test of time: The research also reveals the nation's favourite poet in 2008 is First World War soldier Wilfred Owen, narrowly ahead of late comic Spike Milligan and English Romantic poet William Wordsworth. ‘If' by Rudyard Kipling is the UK's favourite poem of all time.
  • Book time loses out to TV: The average four to five year old spends twice as long watching TV compared to reading with parents (and six times more than reading and looking at books by themselves). There has been a decrease in the amount of time spent sharing book time (a 10% decrease year on year from 3hrs 25mins in 2007 to 3hrs 4mins in 2008).
  • One in five of all children say that they don't read enough with their family and friends. This rises to 40% of 7-8 year olds and is highest regionally in Bristol and Newcastle (30% each respectively).
  • Time spent on household chores overtakes time spent reading for older children: The average 11-12 year old spends 4hrs 14mins surfing the internet compared to just 41 minutes reading with their parent/s. In 2008 Britain, they actually spend more time doing household chores than reading with mum or dad!
  • More poetry reading wanted: One third of all children said they would like to read more poetry or have more poetry read with them.

It's not all bad news though. While some parents unfortunately struggle to find time to read to their children, others don't: Sheffield and Liverpool have the highest rates of ‘daily parental reading' where four out of ten (mostly mums) read aloud with their child everyday. Plus, the research uncovered an additional benefit for parents in reading with their offspring, with 78% agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement that ‘reading with my child(ren) is a good way for me to get away from everyday worries'.

* Booktime and Booked Up 2008 research: 1,507 UK parents of primary school aged children (representative of UK population) took part in the independent research between 12 Aug 2008 and 8 Sept 2008, conducted by Tickbox.net via an online and telephone survey.

The research also explored parents' views on reading poetry with their children:

  • Poetry reading with children strong in major cities: Poetry is still a much loved genre amongst many Brits. London (17%), Birmingham (14%), Sheffield (14%) and Liverpool (13%) have the highest rates of weekly (or more) poetry reading
  • Children's enjoyment: Parents and carers stated that the main benefits of reading poetry is that children enjoy the ‘rhythm and rhyming' (62%), humour (36%) and that the repetition and sounds of the poem aids a child's memory (34%).
  • Poetry saves on story time for some parents: 9% of parents (rising to 12% of dads) say reading poetry with their children saves them time.
  • The benefits of reading poetry were also explored as part of the research: 39% of parents say reading poetry sparks the imagination; 26% like doing it as it's enjoyable/fun; 25% say reading poetry reminds them of happy memories and childhood days; 22% believe it expands their language and vocabulary; 22% of parents say reading poetry represents the perfect escape from the stress of modern life; 18% say it helps them feel better; 7% say it helps them to understand life and the world more.

To help encourage a lifelong love of reading - both stories and poetry - over two million free books will be given to schoolchildren across the UK. These will be given to every reception-aged pupil and Year 7 pupil in England this term through two programmes from independent charity Booktrust, supported by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and education and publishing company Pearson.

The Booktime programme will give children aged 4-5 years across the UK a copy of Harry and the Dinosaurs go to School by Ian Whybrow, illustrated by Adrian Reynolds (both of whom have waived fees and royalties). The packs will also contain a guidance booklet for parents and carers to encourage sharing books with children. The Booked Up programme will give children aged 11-12 a book from a list of 12 carefully selected titles, encouraging independent reading. Both programmes promote reading for pleasure at important transition stages in children's learning and development. Plus, for the first time, free poetry anthologies will be given to both age groups in England. Reception-aged pupils will get a special Booktime edition of The Puffin Book of Fantastic First Poems, while Year 7 pupils will be able to choose a copy of Read Me and Laugh: A Funny Poem for Every Day of the Year (Macmillan) as part of the Booked Up programme.

Model and TV presenter Nancy Sorrell, herself a mum of two children and this year's Booktime and Booked Up Celebrity Ambassador, comments: "It's such a joy to snuggle down with the girls and a book to share in fantastic adventures, faraway worlds and meet exciting new friends. I'm proud to be supporting these two reading initiatives that provide free books for five year olds and 11-year-olds to enjoy. It's a brilliant way to keep children interested in books as they make the move from nursery to ‘big school' and from primary to secondary. Plus, the fact that it's free and available to everyone makes it even more appealing!"

Viv Bird, Director of Booktrust, says: "These wonderful quality books that children will be receiving through Booktime and Booked up will provide many hours of fun for them to share with families and friends. Booktrust is very grateful to Pearson and the DCSF for their generous support."

Marjorie Scardino, CEO, Pearson, adds: "We started Booktime because we wanted every child in the UK to have a book of their own as they started school, and we're proud to be working with Booktrust, DCSF and a group of very talented authors to make that possible again this year. We hope Ian Whybrow's story of Harry's first day at school plus a first taste of poetry through Puffin's fantastic poems will be the start of a lifelong love of reading."

For more information on see http://www.booktime.org.uk for more information and if your child has just started school look out for their special pack.

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