Reading for Fun: An Unfulfilled Potential?

The Book Standard has uncovered the latest Kids and Family Reading Report conducted by Yankelovich and Scholastic. 92% of kids enjoy reading for fun. 90% of kids also say that they believe reading for fun is important. Unfortunately, there is a sharp drop-off in high frequency readers between the ages of 5-8 (40%) and 9-11 (29%). The study, taken from a sample of 500 kids, also notes that “the #1 reason why they do not read more is because they can not find books they like to read.”

Part of me wonders if there is some fundamental disconnect going on here that American society is remaining silent about. If the desire to read within kids is there, what is our education system doing to steer children off reading? Does the drop-off occur here because it’s not socially acceptable to read? Or because parents are demanding their kids to read instead of letting them discover books on their own? What underlying factor that shifts reading away from fun and more towards work? The study here suggests that 72% of high frequency readers associate the need to read with getting into a good college or nabbing a good job when they get older. Reading becomes viewed as “work” as early as the age of 5.

But if the chief problem here is that kids aren’t finding books they “like to read,” perhaps there is something within the current system that is not only preventing kids from “liking” literature, but prohibiting a sense of self-discovery. Thus, the “fun” becomes “work,” rather than something naturally embedded within young minds, and the great interest dissipates.

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4 Comments

  1. Interesting stuff. I wonder if the drop has anything to do with the fact that parents often taper off reading to their kids around that age. My kindergartener loves to read aloud to people and she loves being read to, but isn’t into the whole “read inside your head” thing at all. Maybe silent reading needs to be more enticing, somehow. I know I’ll be watching that closely as elementary school continues to unfold….

    I also think kids have fewer resources than adults for finding new books they might enjoy — further hampered by book banning kerfluffle, or fear of it. I was looking at some summer reading lists yesterday. One was for a high school district that’s usually in the top 50 nationwide, and the only additions I could see from after 1990 were Mitch Albom and Margaret Atwood. The hell?

  2. Hell, I have stacks of uncracked spines at home, and I’m having trouble finding something I’d like to read right now. Who can blame the kids?

    But I agree with your theory. I didn’t become the voracious reader that I am now until after college, when I could choose to read whatever/whenever I wanted to, “for fun.” My favorite books I read in high school were part of our outside reading assignment: we were able to choose any from a large list. I think allowing kids to choose their own reading agendas makes for more avid readers in the long run.

  3. I can remember the first time my mother took me to the public library and left me upstairs in the children’s section by myself to browse the stacks. It was a sacred experience. All those books available to me. I have read voraciously ever since. Perhaps the problem lies in the number of students who aren’t presented with the opportunity to go to the library on a regular basis. It seems that the age where the tapering off occurs still leave children at the mercy of adults for reading opportunities. If parents don’t continue to provide those students with the chance to get to a library or bookstore, they will wind up spending all day in front of the TV or the video game.

  4. The first time at the library when you can read as a kid is a great experience!

    i know people that haven’t read a book in who knows how long and I don’t think they know what they’re missing.

    Reading is just one of those things I think you have to rediscover as you get older or be able to continually find good books that interest you and keep reading a part of your routine or habit.

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