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The problem with reading; some questions answered.
Is there a problem?
"In 1991, 25% of boys aged 14 and 15 reported reading a book for pleasure the previous evening. For girls of the same age, the figure was 35%. In 1998, the respective statistics were 18% and 22%" (Schools Health Education Unit, Exeter University).
"16% teenage boys never read in their spare time compared to only 7% girls" (Mori Survey,May 2003).
So what? Does it actually matter if children don't read much?
Yes, it does. From an English teaching point of view, it has very positive impact on spelling and punctuation, as well as understanding of plot, theme and character.
So it's something that English teachers tell pupils to do because it helps their subject?
The values of reading go way beyond the subject of English. In fact, it can benefit all academic studies, as well as society in general. A massive international survey of 15 year olds by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2000 came to the conclusion that the amount of reading a pupil did made a greater impact on their academic development than the occupational status of their parents. Their conclusion was that:
'FINDING WAYS TO ENGAGE STUDENTS IN READING MAY BE ONE OF THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAYS TO LEVERAGE SOCIAL CHANGE.'
So what makes children want to read?
In a survey conducted by Mori in March-May 2003:
- 43% of children (11-18) said that they would read something on peer recommendation.
- 23% said they'd read about a famous person or hobby.
- Time was cited as the biggest barrier to reading.
- 20% said they'd read more if they knew what to read.
- The age when children's reading began to dip was on average 13/14.
So what is KES doing about this?
All children from first to third year have a weekly reading lesson in the Gould Library, a room with comfortable chairs, cushions and an up-to-date choice of literature. This gives the children the time to read that they feel they lack. During these lessons, pupils hear recommendations from their peers. Teachers monitor their reading, and encourage and advise. Pupils are allowed to read any book, within reason, the main criteria being that it is something that they enjoy.
What can parents do to help?
We can only do so much to encourage a child to read. The reading periods are meant as a stimulus, but only really work if the child continues to read between these classes.
The Department for Education offers this advice on reading:
- Have plenty of books around the house.
- Let your child choose what to read, rather than choosing what you think they should read.
- Encourage your child to read magazines or newspapers as well as books.
- Talk to your child about books or magazines you haven't enjoyed, as well as things you love.
- Let your child see you reading regularly.
- Have a family trip to the bookshop or library.
Our aim at King Edward's is to encourage life-long reading. With your help, we can achieve this.