New research from BookTrust reveals the impact of parental reading enjoyment on children’s reading habits

Published on: 23 November 2023

Findings from BookTrust's Family Survey highlight the generational cycles of reading in families.

A photo of a man reading to a baby and a girl in a library

BookTrust has published its latest research briefing, drawing on the findings of their study of families from low-income backgrounds across the UK.

Reading in the Early Years: Supporting Generational Cycles of Readers is the third publication in this series of research, and explores how patterns of advantage and disadvantage perpetuate themselves without external interventions.

The findings show a stark contrast between children whose parents or carers enjoy reading (65%) and those whose parents or carers do not (35%).

  • 90% of children aged 4–7 whose parents/carers like to read are consistently encouraged to read, compared with 70% of children whose parents/carers do not.
  • At the start of school, 85% of children with enthusiastic reading parents/carers enthusiastically read themselves, compared to 55% of those whose parents/carers do not.
  • 76% of children aged 0–7 whose parents enjoy reading also enjoy reading, while only 54% of children whose parents/carers don't enjoy reading still like to read themselves.

Our research also indicates that children who are read to are more likely to become adults who share books and stories with their own childen or the children in their lives, continuing this positive cycle across generations.

Reading has a widely evidenced impact on both short and long-term outcomes, contributing significantly to better mental health, educational outcomes, empathy and creativity, and mitigating socio-economic inequalities.

Children from low-income backgrounds stand to benefit even more from the immediate and longer-term benefits of early shared reading.

Supporting families to enjoy reading together

Ruthann Hughes, Associate Director of Research & Impact at BookTrust, said, "BookTrust and our extensive network of partners are working hard to get and keep families reading together from the earliest moments in a child's life – so that this generation of children can enjoy the wide and important benefits that reading brings.

"We are committed to getting this right for children and families. Designing ever stronger support, via ever stronger partnerships for ever more children who most need this support is our mission.

"Where we are successful in this, we know children stand to benefit from better cognitive and social development, wellbeing, school readiness, and attainment. And we know that in the longer-term reading can play an important role in helping to break the cycle of poverty for children."

"This research draws attention to the role of enjoyment of not just children but also of people who share books and stories with them as a key factor in creating the next generation of readers and storytellers.

"In sharing it we hope to further increase support for parents and others to enjoy early shared reading moments with their children today."

Through evidence-led programmes and interventions alongside collaborative work with experienced delivery partners, BookTrust continues to provide tailored reading support, especially to families facing barriers to shared reading.

Download the research briefing

Download the press release

Reading Together: Have your say in our consultation

More research briefings

Children's reading habits in the early years

This briefing provides an overview of BookTrust’s research of children’s early years reading habits across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The importance of multiple reading influencers

Our research finds that the more people in a child's life who are involved in influencing their reading, the more likely the child is to become a keen independent reader.

Topics: News

Thank you for helping children discover the magic of books

This Christmas we delivered 17,000 festive book parcels, reaching more children than ever before.

Other ways to support our work