The various benefits of making time for reading amongst parents and children have been raised before – most recently, pointing to the fact that parents who read with their children as opposed to watching television together contribute significantly to their child’s communication and social skills. Now, more research on reading has discovered that children from families who regularly engage in a range of shared activities in the home go on to achieve significantly better exam results by the time they reach secondary school – and it is reading together with their parents that has the biggest impact on children and young people’s academic performance.
The study by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development found that children who read with their parents every day or even as much as once a week gained significantly higher marks in exams sat at the age of fifteen. On average, regular reading with parents at home equates to a child getting the same amount of academic benefit they would receive from having six months extra schooling. The most prominent effects of reading on a child’s educational attainment are best felt if parents begin reading with their children when they are young – aged four, five, or six – although the highest-achieving students still receive parental encouragement and input when they are teenagers.
And the best news for busy parents is that the amount of time spent reading with children each day need not eat significantly into a busy schedule – you don’t need to spend hours reading (unless of course, you do have lots of spare time) and quality is better than quantity. The report says:
“The good news [is] that it does not require a PhD or unlimited hours for parents to make a difference. In fact, many parent-child activities that are associated with better reading performance among students involve relatively little time and no specialised knowledge.”
The research also comes as a reading project aimed at school children is proving particularly successful. Booked Up, the government-funded initiative ran by Booktrust which aims to provide a free book to every child starting secondary school in the country, is encouraging over half of all students involved to read books more often. During the first four years of the programme, Booked Up has given a free book to over 2.5 million children in England. It has also boosted enthusiasm and passion for reading elsewhere, with pupils who are involved in the scheme visiting local libraries and bookshops on a more regular basis, buying books for themselves or their family and reading material by authors they had not previously come across.
Despite the success of such reading projects and reading aloud in the home, there is still concern that reading for pleasure instead of for academic purposes is being neglected by schoolchildren. A survey by the charity Booktime has found that a staggering 98% of teachers believe children do not read enough for pleasure at home. Also one in ten parents shy away from reading to their children themselves, preferring instead to play an audiobook. While any contact with literature is great, there is nothing like a direct reading experience and there really is nothing to be scared of when it comes to reading aloud. Given these different findings, there is no better time to start your own personal reading revolution!