Teachers believe that children today read less than their generation did when they were growing up according to new research

New reading initiative launches to put books centre stage at school and at home

Teachers believe that children today read less than their generation did when they were growing up, according to new research.

In a new research study involving over 500 teachers to mark the launch of Read for My School, only 18%  said that the current generation of children read more, a quarter say they see little change, while 57% of teachers believe children today read less.  

The research also found that 40% of teachers think children will be reading even less in 10 years' time, compared to 20% who predict that children will be reading more in a decade.

Nearly two thirds (64%) of teachers surveyed thought that parents are less involved than they were ten years ago in encouraging children to read.

Read for My School is run by Pearson, the world's leading learning company and Booktrust, the independent charity dedicated to changing lives through reading, with the Department for Education.  The competition, now in its third year, challenges pupils in Year 3, 4, 5 and 6 in primary school and Year 7 and 8 in secondary school to read as many books as they can in two months, choosing from hundreds of print and online books that can be accessed at home as well as in class.

School Reform Minister Nick Gibb MP said: "Ensuring young people can read well is central to our plan for education and so I fully support this competition which will further boost the number of children embracing reading for pleasure.
"Thanks to the hard work of teachers and crucial reforms like the introduction of the phonics check 100,000 more children are already on course to become confident, proficient readers compared to three years ago."Our new curriculum has a greater focus on reading and encourages children to read widely for pleasure so they can develop a real love of literature and so I expect this competition to be more successful than ever."

Reading for pleasure has been shown to have a significant impact on educational attainment. Recent research, published by the Institute of Education, London (1) , found that children who read on a regular basis made more progress in maths, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of 10 and 16 than those who rarely read.

But in recent years, concerns about children's attitude to reading have escalated as other activities, such as TV, video games and social media, compete for children's attention.

In addition to teachers, more than 8,000 children questioned as part of the Read for My School research.  When asked what they would be most proud of creating themselves if they had the skills to do it very well:

  • 50 per cent: A great computer game
  • 21 per cent: A great book
  • 14 per cent: A great film
  • 14 per cent: A great song

The findings of the Read for My School research highlight even more starkly the importance of inspiring children to keep reading in the digital age.  As a result, children can access Read for My School's free online library of more than 150 books on a computer, but also, for the first time in this year's competition, on tablets and other mobile devices, giving children multiple ways to enjoy a great read.

Peter Hughes, director of corporate responsibility at Pearson, says: "Given all the benefits that are known to stem from a literate world, it is our responsibility as part of the education community to help schools in their invaluable work to ensure that reading is given more emphasis in children's lives. Read for My School puts technology at the core of the solution, supporting children with a digital-led reading initiative that parents, teachers and whole-school communities can engage with together."

More than 3,600 schools took part in last year's competition, with some 212,000 pupils reading a total of 876,000 books, more than double the figures for 2013.

This year, the aim is for pupils to read one million books between now and March 2015 with Read for My School Reading Culture awards and prizes worth at least £1,000 on offer to winning schools.  Pupils can also enter a book-reviewing competition. Winners will have the chance to interview a children's author and then see their interview printed in children's newspaper First News. What's more, every child who enters the competition will be given access to a one-off Read for My School edition of The Beano, a comic which has over 75 years' experience in encouraging children to read.  The special issue will feature Dennis the Menace and friends' misadventures at school.

Teachers who entered their schools last year said the competition transformed pupils into voracious book worms, spurred on by the prospect of reading more books than their classmates and winning prizes for their school.

Peter Hughes of Pearson adds: "Read for My School is an exciting challenge that will really appeal to primary and secondary-aged pupils, particularly boys and struggling readers.  It supports the valuable work teachers and school librarians are doing in school to encourage readers for life.

"Today, digital skills are increasingly important, as technology grows more sophisticated and more available. These advances create new and exciting opportunities to tackle literacy challenges, and we are excited by the role technology can play in encouraging children to read.  That's why Read for My School's free online library of more than 150 books can be read on computers, tablets and other mobile devices, giving children multiple different ways to enjoy a great read.

“Research has shown that a child who reads frequently, and has the support of their parents, carers and teachers, is a child that will achieve their potential.”

Teachers committed to putting books centre stage in children’s busy lives

The Read for My School research reveals that participation in the competition puts books centre-stage in children’s busy lives.

Teachers credited Read for My School with boosting pupils desire to read, with 80% stating that having the option to read
books online motivated their pupils to read more.

As in 2013, they reported that boys with average and lower reading ability were the groups whose interest was most sparked. Across the whole competition, 56% of all books logged were read online.

Jackie May, deputy head teacher and literacy co-ordinator at the Lordship Lane Primary School, in north London, which was the Best Read School in the competition last year, said the level of enthusiasm it generated “took her breath away”.

"Every class teacher signed up children and it was a whole school effort. The younger children were really keen to get involved as the scheme included Years 3 and 4 for the first time,” she said.

"Reluctant readers and children who struggle with literacy were as caught up in the excitement as anyone else and read books they never would have picked up before the competition. Read for My School has had a lasting effect and supports our commitment to getting all children to read for pleasure.

Jackie May summed up:  “A child who reads for pleasure, not just decoding the words, is easy to spot in a classroom.  They are the children who are excited by reading, who feel or learn something when they read and want to talk about whatever they have read, fiction or non-fiction, books or magazines.  This pleasure or 'point' to reading will have a direct correlation on how well they do at school and later on in their lives. That’s why it’s important that both schools and parents encourage reading for pleasure.”

Pupils can choose books from eight different genres – from humour to mystery and horror - as part of the competition. 

Daisy Casemore, aged 11 and a Year 6 pupil in a South London school, took part in the competition last year.  She said: “I liked that I could choose from different categories in the Read for My School online library. I loved the humour category as the books made me laugh a lot.  I also liked reading Cinderella: The Real Story.  This was one of my favourites as it gave a different twist to the normal Cinderella story.  All the characters were the opposite to the classic tale and it was cleverly written and I loved it."

For the last two years, the most popular genre has been humour. The 876,000 books read by pupils this year were split by category as follows:

  1. Humour: 27%
  2. Real Life: 18%
  3. Animals and The Wild: 13%
  4. Adventure: 11%
  5. Science Fiction and Fantasy: 11%
  6. Mystery and Horror: 10%
  7. Film and TV: 5%
  8. Historical Fiction: 5%

International bestselling children’s author Jeremy Strong, who has published over 30 humorous books including My Brother’s Famous Bottom and The Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Dog, said: “Adding a sense of fun to stories is one of the best ways to turn a child into a reader and gain a love of reading.  Funny stories are hugely effective in creating life-long readers.”

Teachers can register to take part in the competition from now through to the close of the competition on 20 March 2015 by logging on to http://www.readformyschool.co.uk On registering, they will be able to set up educator and pupil accounts as well as accessing a range of teacher support resources to prepare and plan for the competition well in advance. Schools, teachers and parents can also follow Read for My School on Twitter @ReadforMySchool.

For more information

Maria Boyle, MB Communications Ltd
0208 876 8444 / 0788 764 7855
maria@mbcomms.co.uk
Twitter: MBCommsLtd

Notes to Editors

Read for My School: Top 10 books read in 2014

  1. Cinderella: The Real Story by Jan Burchett & Sara Vogler
  2. Wicked Baba Yaga by Sarah Shillam
  3. Flash the Dog Bounces In! by Jim Eldridge
  4. Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
  5. The Story of Chocolate by Caryn Jenner
  6. My Highly Private Holiday Diary by Jillian Powell
  7. Ape Adventures by Catherine Chambers
  8. The Mystery of the Missing Finger by Josh Lacey
  9. Amber Brown is Not a Crayon by Paula Danziger     
  10. Everything You Need to Know About Sharks by Dorling Kindersley

The Read for My School competition

The Read for My School competition is open to school children across England in Years 3, 4, 5, and 6 in primary schools and to Years 7 and 8 in secondary schools.

The pupils are challenged to read as many books as they can from eight categories during 19 January and 20 March 2015.

The pupils are provided with a library of books all of which are available to read online for free on the competition website: www.readformyschool.co.uk.

Alternatively, they can read any book offline, as long as it fits into one of the categories. Children log what they read on the website, receiving virtual rewards and being entered for prize draws for schools that are averaging eight books read per pupil.

Children have the option to enter a short review of one from a shortlist of books from Penguin Random House. There will be regional and national winners, judged by a panel of authors, librarians, journalists, publishers and teachers. Copies of the books that are shortlisted to be reviewed will be sent to a school in Africa via Book Aid International.

Individual prizes

Book review competition winners will be presented with their awards by a children's author and will win a set of books from Penguin Random House in addition to interviewing an author for children's newspaper, First News.

Throughout the competition there will also be weekly prize draws for children who have been reading, with prizes on offer from Penguin Random House, Pottermore, The Beano, The British Film Institute and Accessorize.

Whole school prizes 

The target for Read for My School 2015 is for all participating pupils to read eight books.

A new category of prizes and awards will go to the schools who can demonstrate how they have used Read for My School as part of wider efforts to strengthen whole school reading cultures. These prizes, awarded at regional and national level, will be provided by a range of sponsors, and each prize will have a monetary value of at least £1,000.

Partners

Read for My School is run by Pearson and Booktrust with support from Penguin Schools, the Department for Education and our technology partner, First Book. All these organisations are committed to improving literacy and creating brighter futures for children of all backgrounds. Promoting reading is the cornerstone of that mission. Together, they hope that Read for My School will help young children, together with their teachers, classmates, parents or caregivers, to appreciate the power of reading—and of giving—as much as they do. More information about Read for My School 2015 is available at www.readformyschool.co.uk.

Booktrust is an independent reading and writing charity that makes a nationwide impact on individuals, families and communities, and culture in the UK. We make a significant positive contribution to the educational outcomes of children from the earliest age. We work to empower people of all ages and abilities by giving them confidence and choices about reading. And we want individuals of all backgrounds to benefit from the wellbeing that a rich and positive engagement in reading and writing can bring. www.booktrust.org.uk

Pearson

Pearson is the world's leading learning company, with over 40,000 employees working to support learners in over 70 countries. Our products and services are used in schools, higher education and professional environments around the world, creating opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to transform their lives. 

Read for my School forms part of project literacy, a new campaign launched by Pearson

Pearson has launched Project Literacy, a major new campaign dedicated to working in partnership with our peers and our communities to build a more literate world in which every individual is empowered to succeed, progress and flourish. Over the next five years, we are committed to facilitate, contribute to and invest in new collaboration and action on the evolving challenges and opportunities around literacy.

Learn more at pearson.com and http://projectliteracy.com/about.

Penguin Schools

Penguin Schools aims to support teachers, librarians and educators as they share the very best books for children and young people published by Penguin Random House Children's UK.  Our incredible authors include Jacqueline Wilson, Roald Dahl, Malorie Blackman and Rick Riordan.  Penguin Schools offers classroom resources and activity packs, guidance for author visits and regular updates on books for children and young people. You will be able to find us online, at key children's books conferences and events, and through our partnership work with educational and other organisations.

Spokesperson

Jeremy Strong once worked in a bakery, putting the jam into three thousand doughnuts every night. Now he puts the jam in stories instead, which he finds much more exciting. He loves writing stories and his ambition is to make you laugh and get children into reading. His much-loved books include The Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Dog and My Brother’s Famous Bottom series and sales across all his titles exceed seven million copies.

Jeremy has won numerous awards for his books including The Children’s Book Award (The Hundred Mile-An-Hour Dog) and the Nottingham Big Three Award (My Mum's Going to Explode), as well as twice winning the Shorter Novel category at the Sheffield Children’s Book Awards.

The Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Dog, My Brother's Famous Bottom and Pirate School by Jeremy Strong feature in the online library of books for pupils to enjoy as part of Read for My School 2015.

Jeremy Strong lives near Bath with his wife, Gillie, four cats and a flying cow. www.jeremystrong.co.uk

The Beano

The Beano is the quintessential British children’s comic, first published by DC Thomson in July 1938 and still printed weekly. It reaches hundreds of thousands* of children every week. The Beano is best known for its famed characters such as Dennis the Menace, Gnasher, The Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx. The spin-off BAFTA nominated animation series, Dennis and Gnasher is exported around the world and is one of the highest rated shows on CBBC.

*TGI Youth Spring 2014, The Beano readership, 528,000.
(1) Institute of Education http://www.ioe.ac.uk/89938.html