With the rise in the use of technology and television for enjoyment, children are beginning to turn away from reading as a source of entertainment. According to a study completed by Scholastic, the amount of children who read for pleasure has decreased by 10% since 2010. Why you ask? It's complex.
This isn't a stereotype or a generalisation, but the socioeconomic status of a child's family influences their perception of books. Though I grew up in the western suburbs in Melbourne, I was blessed to grow up with parents who have always placed high value on reading and had good jobs. Many consider socioeconomic status as the suburb or area someone lives in. This is incorrect, one's socioeconomic status relates to an individual's or family's position based on factors such as income, education and occupation. Research has found that children of low socioeconomic families are less likely to read for pleasure. Reading for pleasure influences one's writing ability, vocabulary and general knowledge. Another aspect in regards to socioeconomic status includes a parent's attitude towards reading. Parents of low socioeconomic status are more likely to have a negative attitude towards books. The result this has on a child is that a cycle begins to form where children inherit their parents' attitude towards books and then pass this down to their children.
How do we break this cycle? The only way to break the trend is by providing additional support to these children. Sometimes a child's dislike for books is a result of having poor early literacy skills. It makes sense—if you can't read, how are you supposed to find it enjoyable? By helping children develop literacy skills, this will break the vicious cycle.
According to research conducted by Christina Clark and Kate Rumbold, reading for pleasure has many benefits. This includes positive development of reading attainment, text comprehension, grammar, and self-confidence. This shows that reading for pleasure doesn't only have entertainment value, it also helps literacy skills.
An important way to motivate children to love reading is by letting them choose the books they want to read. If you let them read what they desire, they will want to keep on reading. Think back to when you were in primary school or high school and you were forced to read a prescribed text—it's highly likely you didn't enjoy the book. Giving children the option to read what they want will create readers who are engaged and enthusiastic. For younger children, it is wise to quiz them on their interests. For example, if a child loves trucks, help them find books all about trucks.
Even though I am a trained primary school educator, i've always had a negative opinion on reading levels and benchmarks. Why do schools and parents feel the need to put this extra pressure on children? I have witnessed first-hand students being bullied about their reading level by those with better skills. Being bullied about reading levels will obviously cause student's to feel discouraged from reading. Parents (and many teachers) act as if grades are the most important thing about education. They're wrong—if you want children to enjoy reading, stop putting high academic expectations on them and let them have the freedom to read what they want.
If children value reading at a young age, they will become lifelong book lovers. Not only does this help create a highly literate society, it also means that society's love for books will continue to prosper in years to come.