Half of parents read to children less than an hour a week, Book People research finds
PUBLISHED: 06:00 21 September 2017 | UPDATED: 08:59 25 September 2017
Parents have been urged to read more often to their children after research found almost half feel they do not set a good example at home across East Anglia.
Research by the Book People has revealed that half of parents in the region read to their primary school-aged child less than one hour per week. More than one in five (22%) do not read to their son or daughter at all, the study found.
Teachers say they notice the difference in reading competence between a child whose parent does read to them and those who don’t, and that those who did read regularly were developing more than just their literacy skills.
Clare Flintoff, executive principal at multi-academy trust ASSET Education, who was previously headteacher at St Helen’s Primary School in Ipswich, said: “With parents that read with their children, the children are much more likely to develop reading skills, love books, and become readers themselves.
“But I think if you are a child who enjoys books and reads with your parents, you are much more likely to be able to understand the feelings of characters. It develops your thinking skills, and having someone to talk to about the story is important.”
Mrs Flintoff said that many parents may not have the time or the reading skills to read regularly with their child, which was important for school leaders to note. She argued that making the time to read to children has further benefits.
She said: “If you can get into the habit just before bedtime, that is really easy to fit in, however busy you are, and that gives you special quality time with your child that will have so many other benefits.”
The analysis by the Book People revealed that just 55% of parents in East Anglia felt they set a good example with their reading habits, compared to 65% nationally, with 45% believing they don’t set a good example.
“I was very interested to see that,” Mrs Flintoff said. “If 45% of East Anglian parents think they are not setting a good example, that is a challenge to them.
“Let’s get not only the kids in school into reading, but the parents too.”
At Suffolk Libraries, staff work hard to make reading an enjoyable experience, which they felt was key to making children and adults pick up books more often. Art and craft events centred around books are often organised to promote that, with story time sessions for all ages of children making sure it was open to everyone.
Krystal Vittles, Suffolk Libraries’ development manager and children’s lead, said: “The important thing is that reading should be enjoyable – for both parents and children.
“Some people might not be confident in reading a book with a child but it’s so valuable and rewarding to read together.
“There is such a wonderful and diverse range of children’s books available, full of colourful characters and pictures.”
At the Waterstones store in Ipswich, children’s bookseller Jem Gooding has noticed that parents often visit wanting their children to read more, but too many parents felt that once they had got past the picture books phase, there was less of a need to do so.
“Picture books and things like Harry Potter are immensely popular to read together. It helps them to start getting into reading,” she said.
“But once they are at school and bring books home, parents should still be reading them together.
“The things that are really popular with seven to 14 year olds – that age where they tend to be harder to read to – are things like David Walliams, but those are exactly the books you should read together because you can do the silly voices and make fun of parents.”
To help encourage reading, Suffolk Libraries lays on the annual Summer Reading Challenge, while school reading volunteers who come in for one-to-one reading with pupils also gives children more time to read aloud than in an ordinary classroom situation.
A Parental Engagement Network has also been launched to get teachers and parents to discuss reading options.
Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education and skills, said: “All Suffolk schools encourage children to read at home and the majority have reading record books where children record what they have read at home.”
Miss Gooding added: “I think (reading record books) help them make their own choices.
“If you introduce them to enough different things they might not have picked up themselves, it’s going to carry on the traditions of storytelling.”