Everything you need to know about Time to Read
BookTrust knows that reading and a love of books can transform lives. Children who read for pleasure are likely to do better at school, as well as be more socially, culturally and emotionally prepared for life. In fact, studies suggest that reading enjoyment is more important for a child's educational success than their family's financial or social status.
Encouraging your child to read and participating in shared reading will open their eyes to the world around them and can help foster a greater level of empathy, as well as developing their vocabulary and literacy skills. Reading together is also a brilliant way to bond with your child, opening up opportunity for discussion, physical closeness and shared experiences.
Several pieces of research suggest that a growing number of children do not read for pleasure. International studies run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) show that the percentage of children who report reading for enjoyment daily is dropping and that there is a decline in attitudes towards reading among children.
Through research conducted by Egmont, our official publisher research partner, we also know that as children reach primary school age and other activities such as social media, gaming and the internet take precedence, the frequency at which children are read to by parents/carers drops significantly.
Not long after this, children's independent reading also decreases. In a recent BookTrust parent survey, we found that, on average, parents read with their children only once every four days - and almost one in five parents read with their child once a week or less.
There is no one answer for this and the results of our most recent parent survey show that there are many reasons why parents might stop reading with their children as they grow older.
Time and busy schedules are big factors, but the greatest number of parents (40%) that we surveyed said that they had abandoned shared reading time as their child had learned to read and started reading alone.
More on our research
We don't think that it's an either/or situation when it comes to reading. While it's important that your child develops the confidence and enthusiasm to read independently, they may struggle to do this without your support - just as a learner driver needs encouragement, so young readers really benefit from reading with adults.
Having to decode longer words can disrupt the "flow" of reading, making it feel much harder than watching a film or playing a game. By reading with your independent reader, you can remind them how great it is to get lost in a story. You can also build their confidence in reading, perhaps reading one page each. It's also a great opportunity to explore the themes of a book, checking their understanding, and even reassuring them if the book gets scary!
By reading with your child, you're showing them that reading is something you enjoy and value, and it's a wonderful way to bond and create lasting memories and a shared language.
Don't give up. Reading can be daunting for some children but shared reading can be the remedy for this. Making the experience as enjoyable as possible, encouraging their progress and giving them the opportunity to ask questions can make all the difference. Let them choose a book they want to read, and help them with more difficult words.
By regularly reading with your child, allowing them to practise in a safe and fun environment, they will build up the will and the skill to read - particularly if they find a book they really love. Remember, there's no "right book" - whatever gets them excited is the right book! Your local bookshop or library will be very happy to help them find it.
Shared reading is a practice - the practice of reading to and reading with each other, and talking about books, stories and rhymes. Shared reading is a way of developing early literacy skills, behaviours and knowledge.
How to read with your child
Yes, don't give up! Reading together is an incredible way to bond as a family and to develop your child's reading confidence and enjoyment, as well as aiding academic achievement - so do stick at it.
Research shows the enjoyment of reading, developed through shared reading time with parents or carers, has a significant positive impact on a wide range of life outcomes, including social, personal, health and wellbeing, and educational. Children who enjoy reading will read more often and this helps them do better at school, even in subjects like maths. Indeed, reading for pleasure regularly has more of an impact on a child's educational achievement than having a parent with a degree.
If your child isn't engaged, try actively involving them in the story, discussing elements of the plot as you go along and encouraging them to read passages to you, too.
Don't be afraid to make it a fun activity. Reading doesn't have to always be part of the calming evening routine - if your child is struggling to remain interested, appeal to their sense of humour with funny books or magazines. Humour is one of the best ways to hook in reluctant readers. And remember that children may be listening even when they look like they're doing something else. Don't give up too quickly!
Let your child choose the books they want to read - reading enjoyment is so much about finding the right book for you, so try something new if your latest choices haven't grabbed them. You can find lots of suggestions on this website, or try visiting the local library with your child and let them pick what they want to read with you next.
Shared reading should be a really fun, interactive experience for both you and your child. Through literacy study, your child will be learning to read on their own and decode texts, so shared reading time should be the chance to engage your child in a world of imagination and excitement. Make it more fun by appealing to your child's sense of humour and adventure, choosing funny or exciting stories and making the reading a performance.
More than half of parents with children aged 11 feel they spend less time talking with their child as they've got older - so by talking to your child about the story as you read, and using it as a springboard for wider discussion, you can make the process more enjoyable for your child and yourself.
More on our research
Audio books can be a great way to engage children in stories. Audio books can complement shared reading but they're not a replacement because the act of shared reading involves a lot more than simply telling a story - being together, talking about the story, asking each other questions about themes in the story and so on, are all important aspects of shared reading.
While there are many benefits to using e-readers, studies suggest that screen media can restrict parent-child dialogue and children can easily become more focused on the technological aspects and mechanics of the phone or tablet than the story's plot.
Some research also indicates that the light from digital screens can negatively impact sleep as the light disrupts melatonin secretion, so physical books might be best around bedtime.
Older children will often enjoy the responsibility of helping you read stories to their younger siblings. It is a great opportunity to make shared reading a whole family activity.
Choosing visually stimulating books is a good way to engage different-aged readers because it allows them to interpret the story in their own way, using the text as much or as little as suits them. If you want to read to your children individually, then do go ahead. Valuable shared reading time can be as little as ten minutes a day - easy to fit in around your family's schedule.
We read every night - or rather, we read my child's phonics/literacy homework with him/her. Do we really need to do more?
Phonics and literacy are incredibly important parts of a child's education, but it's not just about the capability to read, it is vital that children are also encouraged to love reading. We know that children who love to read will choose to read and this will carry through into their adult lives.
Phonics and literacy study will allow them to decode a text, but shared reading opens up children's minds to a whole host of new ideas, and is a way to bond emotionally as a family in a way that homework does not offer.
While homework may be perceived by your child as a chore, reading together should be seen as a fun activity that you both want to do together.
Just ten minutes a day of shared reading can make all the difference. Sparing a little time to read can be hugely beneficial for both you and your child. It's a chance to bond as a family, a catalyst for conversation, and can be an opportunity to unwind and settle your children after a busy day. In a recent survey, we found that an astonishing 89% of parents want to find ways to enjoy more shared activities and quality family time together.
Reading is something you can do anytime, anywhere - whether it's on the bus to school, waiting at the dentist or while dinner is cooking. Try incorporating reading into different parts of the day. It doesn't always have to be part of the night-time routine.
We're all pushed for time, but ask yourself what you could give up to free up ten minutes a day. In a recent BookTrust survey we asked about how often parents WWILF ("What was I looking for?"). WWILFing is the common phenomenon of surfing the net for no discernible purpose, something we're all familiar with!
On average, people admitted to spending 26 minutes per day WWILFing on a phone or computer. Could you make time to read by cutting down how much you browse?
More on our research
My children don't enjoy the books I read as a child. Where can I find recommendations for new books?
We're passionate about making sure kids get to read the books that engage them. If you've not quite found the right book for your child yet, take a look at our bookfinder. We have recommendations for every age and interest and we review the best new children's books to make finding something to read as easy as possible for you.
You'll also find lots of great books to choose from at your local library, and your librarian will be able to help point you and your child in the right direction.
The Bumblebear is a fantastic, fun-filled book by Nadia Shireen, which Reception-aged children in England received via their primary school in 2017.
More about The Bumblebear