Young children “turned off from reading”

A lack of reading at home – coupled with the influence of the internet – is resulting in an increasing number of children uninterested in reading by the time they finish primary school, according to a new UK survey.

The research, carried out by publisher Pearson, asked around 400 secondary school teachers, who said young children were increasingly “turned off” from reading for pleasure, with many preferring to spend time online.

Worryingly, nearly three quarters warned that children did not spend enough time reading outside of the classroom, while two thirds said that reading was not seen as “cool” amongst pupils. An overwhelming 97 per cent raised fears that parents were not doing enough to encourage a love of books at home.

Children’s author Frank Cottrell Boyce said: “It’s worrying to think that so many young children are not being inspired to pick up a good book and get lost in a story.

“According to Unesco, the biggest single indicator of whether a child is going to thrive at school and in work is whether or not they read for pleasure. Clearly we need to make sure we are providing our children with the right types of books which stimulate their interest, capture their imagination and make them turn the next page.”

Following other recent studies showing poor literacy levels in the UK among many children and adults, the findings are of particular concern.

Shake the Dust and PoetryQuest

Here at Children & the Arts, we believe that the arts play a crucial role in introducing children to books and stories and fostering a love of reading – but we recognise that this doesn’t always have to come through traditional means and methods.

One project which has transformed the traditional concept of a literacy initiative is Shake the Dust, a nationwide youth poetry slam that has seen 13-16 year olds up and down the country writing, performing and competing with their own words. With its roots in hip hop culture, performance poetry is increasingly proving to be an exciting and popular way for young people to express themselves and be heard. Shake the Dust comes to a close next weekend with a grand slam finale bringing together winners from nine different regions, at the Southbank Centre in London.

Promoting poetry as an exciting art form is also the aim of our own PoetryQuest 2012/2013, which links cultural centres across the UK with primary schools and aims to introduce young children to the potential of the spoken word. Supported by the MariaMarina Foundation, PoetryQuest offers children the chance to see poetry performed, as well a change to perform their own work in front of their peers, teachers and families.

News update….

A new study looking at the gender reading gap, released shortly after this story was originally published, suggests that boys’ lack of achievement in reading is not down to ‘biological differences’.

Instead, there are distinct ‘social’ factors which lead to boys falling behind girls, according to the report by the Boys Reading Commission. These include parents giving girls books as presents rather than boys and teachers picking texts that appeal more to girls at school. A lack of reading amongst many fathers may also influence boys’ performance, researchers said.

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