More than a quarter of a million school children experiencing literary poverty

Published on: 05 February 2020 Author: BookTrust

BookTrust research has revealed that more than a quarter of a million UK primary school children are experiencing literary poverty.

Two children reading a book

• 345,000 primary school children in the UK receive less than 15 minutes of shared reading a week
• One in seven parents or carers never read their child a bedtime story
• Former Waterstones Children’s Laureate Anne Fine backs BookTrust’s Pyjamarama campaign to end literary poverty

A child in literary poverty is defined as a child who is read to or with for pleasure, for less than 15 minutes a week outside of school.

BookTrust's latest study shows that 345,000* (14%) school children aged seven to nine are currently falling into this category, with a further 17% on the border, being read to or with for less than half an hour a week. Worryingly, six per cent of children aged 7-9 fall into the worse category of literary poverty, with their parents or guardians never reading to or with them at all. 

Just a third (37%) of young children in the UK are reading with or being read to by a parent or carer for over an hour a week in total. BookTrust encourages families to read together for just 10 minutes a day as this helps develop their language, curiosity, imagination and listening skills, as well as benefitting their academic development, including writing skills.

It appears that the traditional bedtime story is also suffering. One in seven parents admit that they never read to their child before bed, with a further 11% saying they only do so once a week on average.

The research shows that the importance of regular reading is not lost on parents, with nine in ten believing that reading for pleasure is important for their child. However, children aged 7 – 11 today are on average reading for pleasure for 28 minutes less a week than their parents did at the same age. In fact, half of children aged 7 - 11 in the UK (50%) read for less than an hour a week.

In response to the worrying findings, former Waterstones Children’s Laureate Anne Fine has launched BookTrust’s annual fundraising Pyjamarama campaign to call on families to rediscover the joy of reading.

 Author Anne Fine

Former Waterstones Children’s Laureate Anne Fine comments:

“With far fewer screen distractions, my friends and I spent half our lives deep in books. Now, half our primary school children spend less than an hour a week reading for pleasure. But reading’s a vital skill. It’s the bedrock of education in all subjects, and enriches our children from both an emotional and a cultural perspective. For the parent, sharing a story with a small child is a sanity-saving, calming comfort, and reading to an older child soon becomes addictive. I’d encourage everyone to put aside the screens a little more to engage children with reading. It truly does work wonders.”

Pyjamarama invites Primary Schools and Nurseries to sign up and allow children to wear their pyjamas all day on Friday 5th June and celebrate the bedtime story in return for a £1 donation. All funds raised will go towards helping help BookTrust ensure that every child experiences the life changing benefits of access to books and reading.

Gemma Malley, Director at BookTrust comments:

“We are seeing a real cliff-edge in terms of children reading for enjoyment and whilst parents want their children to read more, there’s a real danger that families are sleepwalking into literary poverty. We know that reading for enjoyment is closely linked to academic development as well as building confidence and resilience, and children who are read to are much more likely to read for enjoyment themselves. We hope that through Pyjamarama we can encourage families across the country to reconnect with reading and to snuggle up with a fantastic book together.”

Read the full press release here.

*14 % of 7, 8 and 9 year olds in the UK based on most recent ONS data 

Topics: News

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