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Scholastic Biennial Survey Reveals Young Readers Face Challenges In Finding Their Stories

Kids & Family Reading Report™: 7th Edition explores how reading helps children navigate the world, the importance of diversity in characters and storylines, the impact of book access & reading role models and more

NEW YORK, March 19, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Scholastic (SCHL), the global children's publishing, education and media company, today released results from the seventh edition of its Kids & Family Reading Report™, a biennial national survey of parents' and children's reading attitudes and behaviors. Those surveyed include more than 1,000 pairs of children ages 6–17 and their parents, as well as 678 parents of kids ages 0–5.

The research reveals the diversity parents and children seek in books, explores how reading helps children understand their world and indicates the importance of book access and reading role models. To download the full report, visit www.scholastic.com/readingreport.

"For more than a decade, the Kids & Family Reading Report has helped us understand what kids and parents want and need from books. This seventh edition highlights the importance of children feeling seen and heard, and acknowledges the social-emotional value of reading. The child with access to reading is a child better prepared to navigate the challenges of an unpredictable future," said Richard Robinson, Scholastic CEO and Chairman. "What is striking in this year's report, however, is how many children are losing their connection to books and reading at a relatively early age. If we are to turn around the decline in children's reading frequency at age 8 and 9, and reignite their love for reading, we must continue the critical work of connecting kids with stories that spark their innate curiosity, in whatever format they prefer."

Finding Their Story: A Precarious "Decline by Nine" 

The study found the percentage of kids defined as frequent readers (reading books for fun 5–7 days a week) drops from 57% among 8-year-olds to 35% among 9-year-olds. The data also shows a drop between ages eight and nine in the number of kids who say they love reading (from 40% to 28%), as well as the percentage of kids who think reading books for fun is important (from 65% to 57%). The Kids & Family Reading Report has shown a child's attitude towards reading enjoyment and importance is a predictor of reading frequency, which makes the trends in this year's report so striking.

Reading helps kids navigate the world. The vast majority of parents (88%) believe that reading fiction and nonfiction is a good way for their child to better understand the world. Three in four children agree. More than half of kids (53%) and parents (55%) also agree a book has helped them or their child through a difficult time. Nevertheless, the data cited above shows that a young reader's journey is at risk.

Families expect more from children's books. In the past two years, both kids and parents are less likely to say that when picking a children's book to read for fun, the type of book doesn't matter, it just has to be a good story (down 17 points among kids; 21 points among parents).

  • More kids want books that make them laugh (up 10 points to 52%), help them explore new worlds (up nine points to 40%) and become familiar with new topics (up seven points to 26%).
  • More parents want these types of books, as well as those which help their child learn about the lives of others (up 12 points to 48%) and books that make their child think and feel (up nine points to 51%).

"It is worrisome that the Kids & Family Reading Report shows us that many kids are losing their connection to reading when they need it most, in third grade. But the research also has a powerful message from kids that they want to read, but not just any book," said Lauren Tarshis, SVP & Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of Scholastic Magazines and author of the bestselling I Survived series. "I am constantly inspired to see how kids are ready and eager to engage in stories that will open their eyes and their hearts and challenge them to think in new ways. We must help kids find fascinating, meaningful stories about relatable characters."

Finding Their Story: Diversity in Children's Books in Demand

The survey underscores the importance of diversity and how broadly it is defined. A majority of parents and a near majority of kids ages 9–17 say diversity in children's books includes people and experiences different than their own – representations of various cultures, customs, religions, settings and living situations. For others, diversity in children's books includes differently-abled people, people of color and LGBTQ people.

  • Many want diversity in books. About half of kids ages 9–17 and parents with kids ages 6–17 agree "I wish there were more books available that include diversity;" among kids and parents who agree that diversity in children's books is important, these percentages rise to 76% of kids and 69% of parents. Black and Hispanic families overall have the strongest views on the importance of and need for books with diversity.
  • Demand is on the rise. Kids ages 12–17 and parents of children of all ages are more likely today than they were in 2016 to want books that include diverse storylines, characters or settings (18% of kids, up five points; 31% of parents with kids ages 6–17, up five points; parents of children ages 5 and under up 9 points to 36%).
  • Characters build character. This year's survey asked parents to prioritize the qualities they hope their children develop. Responsibility, self-confidence, honesty, respectfulness and kindness top the list. Parents know that cultivating these qualities can be challenging, and they overwhelmingly believe reading can help: 95% agree that characters in books can help inspire the development of these qualities in their child.

According to Andrea Davis Pinkney, VP, Executive Editor at Scholastic, bestselling children's book author and Coretta Scott King Book Award winner, "The Kids & Family Reading Report puts even more power behind our belief that diversity in books matters. When kids don't see books that reflect diverse experiences, they're not emboldened to expand their thinking. But when a young reader finds a story that positively reflects his or her own story -- or presents the stories of people not like themselves --  that child becomes encouraged to read more. This has a direct impact on how kids view their place in the world, and helps them develop empathy and open-mindedness. Tomorrow's leaders need to see themselves in books. The report empowers us to help kids do that."

Finding Their Story: Access matters

The report shows clear parallels between access to books and reading role models and kids' reading frequency.

  • Kids need help finding books. While four in 10 kids agree that they have trouble finding books that they like, this is far higher among infrequent readers than frequent readers (59% vs. 32%) and is true of roughly half of kids by age nine.
  • Reading role models show kids the way. Frequent readers are more likely to be surrounded by people who they perceive to enjoy reading: 82% say a lot or nearly everyone they know enjoys reading, versus infrequent readers at 34%. And much like reading frequency, there's a clear decline as children age: 77% of kids ages 6–8 say a lot or nearly everyone they know enjoys reading, but this drops as children age to 48% among 15–17 year-olds.
  • Books at home and in the classroom provide access. Frequent readers have an average of 139 books for children in their homes vs. 74 in infrequent readers' homes. In school, classroom libraries are only available for 43% of school-aged children and only one-third say they have a classroom library that has enough of the types of books they'd like to read.
  • When kids choose, kids read. Regardless of reading frequency or children's ages, the majority of kids (89%) agree their favorite books are the ones that they have picked out themselves.

"Parents, grandparents, older siblings, teachers, principals—everyone in a child's life—can be a reading role model. It's up to us all to provide the opportunity for choice, be readers ourselves, ask and answer questions about what a child is reading, read aloud together (regardless of age!), and more," said Michael Haggen, Chief Academic Officer for Scholastic Education. "When a child knows that the people surrounding them value reading, we will have a greater culture of literacy in our homes and in our schools." 

Background on the Kids & Family Reading Report™

The Kids & Family Reading Report is a biennial report from Scholastic and is managed by the independent research firm YouGov. Results are from a nationally representative survey with a total sample size of 2,758 parents and children, including 678 parents of children ages 0-5; 1,040 parents of children ages 6-17; plus one child age 6–17 from the same household. The survey was conducted between September 6, 2018 and October 4, 2018. The first installment of the seventh edition focused on the rising prevalence and awareness of reading aloud with children. A forthcoming installment will focus on summer reading.

For the full methodology and reports, see www.scholastic.com/readingreport.

For more information about Scholastic, visit our media room at http://mediaroom.scholastic.com.

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