How you can help inspire a generation of future readers

Published on: 19 April 2022 Author: Ly Chu & Roshni Modhvadia, BookTrust's Research Team

Families know the importance of books, but it takes a range of role models to genuinely nurture children’s reading habits

A family reading together

Children need to be inspired to start reading early in life

At BookTrust, we know healthy reading habits can have a positive impact on a child’s development, emotional wellbeing and educational outcomes later in life. But it’s not just parents and carers who play an important role in nurturing these reading habits.

From siblings to grandparents, friends and teachers, there is a community out there who can inspire the next generation of readers. 

For children to grow up to be readers, able to enjoy the full benefits of reading, they need to be inspired to start reading early in life. That’s why at BookTrust, we place a huge emphasis on reaching families with children from birth, supporting and encouraging them to start sharing stories together as early as possible.

A recent BookTrust survey* of over 5,000 families found that a child is more likely to be reading regularly on their own throughout childhood if they are surrounded by people who read to them, people who introduce them to new books, and people who inspire them to enjoy reading.

Reading in the first year of a child's life

Many families are taking the early steps to support future reading habits. Most parents (85%),  like Ruth, are reading with their children in the first 12 months:

With so much digital technology around, I really think there’s nothing better than a book. It’s so tactile, a sense of something real for a child. She loves it when I turn pages. Little things like that are so important for children.
Ruth, Mother of Florence (aged 4 months)

While 96% of the families told us that it was important to them that their child reads, 33% said they don’t see reading and books as a big part of their family life. It is clear there is a disconnect between the importance families place on reading, and the steps they are able to take, to make reading and sharing stories a regular part of everyday life.

Family structures, routines and priorities are evolving, and families face increasing pressures on their time. Our survey revealed that shared reading between children and an adult (outside of school lessons) peaks at age three and then starts to decline. The risk is that once the decline in reading together starts, it is very difficult to reverse.

So how can we support children to keep reading once they’ve started?

Our survey shed light on the wide and diverse range of role models who influence and encourage children on their reading journeys. Whether it is grandparents gifting books, siblings reading together, teachers inspiring children to enjoy reading or children discovering new books from their friends, they all play an important and contributory role to connect children with books and stories. 

We were told, for example, that 91% of grandparents gift books to their grandchildren, and 30% of children over the age of seven find out about new books to read from their friends.

Therefore, there is a need for us to ensure that we work with a diverse range of partners such as nurseries, schools, libraries and more, to ensure we’re supporting the very role models who can inspire the next generation of readers.

Reading is important for children because it’s primarily a life skill and you can be genuinely disadvantaged if you can’t read. But reading also has the potential to be so much more.
Katie Tilley, Early Years and Primary Consultant, Lambeth Virtual School, Lambeth Council

If you’re a grandparent, teacher or someone who spends time with children, don’t underestimate the opportunity you have to inspire a future reader. When you pick up a book at home, read the characters from a book in silly voices, or share your favourite children’s book to make a connection with a child, you are making an important contribution to a child’s reading journey.

So thank you to all the reading role models out there. Without you, children would be missing out on a world of brilliant books and imaginative stories that have the potential to enrich their lives. 

Read more: Impact and research 

*The BookTrust Family Survey on reading behaviours was conducted with 7,871 parents and carers, children aged 0-17 and grandparents across England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2021.

Topics: Research, Features

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