25 February 2010

Is Their Children Reading?

In a typical example of British press overstatement, the Telegraph just published an article that claimed a study found such things as:

  • “Less than half of children aged nine to 14 read fiction more than once a month.”
  • “Little more than four in 10 boys (42 per cent) regularly open the pages of a work of fiction, while among girls the proportion is only marginally higher, at 48 per cent.”
The newspaper cited Britain’s National Literacy Trust. And the trust felt compelled to issue a press release clarifying what its research had actually found. Among the head author’s actual conclusions was:
a huge percentage of [self-identified] non-readers DO read, just not the kinds of materials that are traditionally associated with reading.
Furthermore, that summary makes clear that the study actually asked children about what they read “outside of school.” As most of these sorts of studies do.

Of course it’s important to know if kids are developing the habit of reading for pleasure when they don’t have an assignment. But if they’re reading lots of fiction for school, it might be only natural for them to choose other activities for their free time, even if they enjoy that reading.

The response to headlines like this might be to assign more fiction for school, which could indeed make kids read more. But it would also mean the percentages of kids saying they read not for school would go down further.

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