700,000 schoolchildren across the UK given free Funnybones book

700,000 schoolchildren across the UK given free Funnybones book to encourage parents to spend time reading with their children

Booktime 2007, a nationwide reading programme is being launched today (Wednesday 26 September 2007) to encourage parents and carers to spend time reading with their children.  Booktime 2007 will see 700,000 schoolchildren receive a free copy of children's classic Funnybones by Janet and Allan Ahlberg when they start school

Leading personalities including Michael Parkinson, Jools Oliver, Tana Ramsay and Carol Smillie, along with some of the UK's most loved authors have joined forces to lend their support to the initiative which was originally set up in 2006 by education & publishing company Pearson in association with independent charity Booktrust.  

This year, with support from the Department for Children Schools and Families, Booktime will provide every reception aged child in England with a copy of Funnybones.  Every primary school and library in England will receive a free resource pack of activity sheets and session ideas which will also be available to download on the Booktime website.

It is widely recognised that one of the most important things a parent can do to help their children learn is to read with them and inspire a love of reading and books.  But, this isn't reflected in the results of independent new research* commissioned to coincide with Booktime 2007.  The research of over 1,800 UK parents paints a revealing portrait of modern childhood.  Findings include:

  • Primary school aged children spend the majority of their leisure time either alone or with friends rather than with their family.  Top three activities include watching TV, playing outside and time with friends.
  • TV magnet for time: Children spend twice as much time watching TV vs enjoying a book with an adult (7 hrs, 46 mins vs just 3 hrs 25 mins each week).
  • When reading does happen, mums take the lead with 73% being the chief reader vs only 16% of dads.
  • The more dads earn, the more likely they are to read with their child; the more mums earn, the less likely they are to read most with their child.
  • Children spend little time on family-focused activities (eg enjoying meal together, sharing a book at bedtime; helping mum & dad with chores).

The main research findings follow:

1. Children spend more time alone and with friends than with parents

Children in the UK are missing out on valuable interaction time with their parents as a result of spending the majority of their leisure time by themselves or with their friends. 


Activity


Average time primary school child spends per week


Watching TV


7 hours, 46 minutes


Playing outside


7 hours, 8 minutes


Playing with toys


7 hours, 0 minutes


Playing with friends


6 hours, 4 minutes


Playing sport


5 hours, 27 minutes


Reading a book


3 hours, 51 minutes

 

* Booktime 2007 research: 1,842 UK parents of primary school aged children (representative of UK population) took part in the research between 20 Aug 2007 - 12 Sept 2007.  The independent research was conducted by Tickbox.net via online and telephone research.  Questions were developed in conjunction with some of the UK's leading university academics who specialise in literacy. 

2. TV watching is THE most popular activity for primary school children

Looking at average times UK children spend on various activities, the highest volume of time in a primary school aged child's day is spent watching TV: a total of 7 hours and 46 mins each week (= more than one full school day).  37% of parents say that their child spends between 5-10 hours watching TV and 18% spend between 10-20 hours sitting on the sofa watching it (and these figures do not include time spent watching DVDs). 

3. Children spend more time reading BY THEMSELVES vs enjoying a book WITH a parent

Even though many parents recognise the value of encouraging their child to enjoy books, children spend more time reading by themselves vs sharing the experience with an adult.  Children living in the East of England (29%), Midlands (28%) and Yorkshire (28%) are most likely to read independently.  Sharing a book with a child is most popular in Northern Ireland as 38% of parents dedicate between two to five hours each week to this activity (the highest in the country).  They are followed by Welsh parents (34%) and those living in the South West (32%). 

4. Range of books popular with children - especially those linked to TV

According to the research, one benefit of watching TV is that books linked in to TV programmes are hugely popular with children. 

Books children enjoy the most

  1. Story books (81%)

  2. Picture books (71%)

  3. Books linked to TV programmes (53%)

  4. Fairy tales (52%)

  5. Nursery rhymes (47%)

  6. Fact books (38%)

  7. School books (33%)

  8. Children's poetry (20%)

5. Reading books more popular than computer games

Contrary to concerns about excessive time spent playing on computer games, the Booktime research reveals that the average primary school child actually spends less time on this activity compared to playing outside, spending time with friends and pursuing sporting activities.  This could be due to the fact that certain age groups of the children have not yet got the 'PlayStation bug'; parents are policing time spent on computer games/PlayStation; or the fact that the child is just more interested in other activities.  And one in three parents (35%) of primary aged children state that they never play on computers or PlayStation. 

6. Family conversation at the dinner table diminishes

The Booktime research also explored mealtimes.  Parents reveal that their primary school aged children are much more likely to spend more time watching TV, playing outside and doing sport vs sitting down to eat at meal times ie breakfast, lunch and dinner.  On average, they will dedicate just 43 mins a day to this although some spend even less: 18% of parents said that their children spend just 17 mins a day eating breakfast, lunch and dinner! 

Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood: How The Modern World Is Damaging Our Children?And What We Can Do About It, comments: "When parents are frantically juggling work and domestic responsibilities, children often rely on the TV for company. But what they really need is real-life contact with the loving adults in their lives -- sharing and talking about a book together is a lovely way to provide this contact."

As part of the initiative, Allan Ahlberg, author of the much loved Funnybones books, has waived all royalties.  His book was picked by an independent panel of experts because it is a brilliant book to read aloud to children and has wonderful illustrations, making it a joy for readers of all levels.

Beverley Hughes, Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families, said: "One of the most important things a parent can do to help their children learn is to read with them and introduce them to the habit of reading. Books are the foundation on which we can build other learning - but reading doesn't need to be dull or serious. Sharing a book with a child is fun - it's a time for closeness, laughing and talking together. And the free book that every five year old will receive through Booktime will hopefully help to consolidate a love of books and reading, as well as be an excellent story for parents to share with their children."

For more information, please call:

National media:
Maria Boyle
0208 876 8444
0788 764 7855

Regional media
Mars Webb
0208 935 0372
07717 718 063

Notes to Editors

1. Booktime research

Independent research was conducted on behalf of Booktime, a programme to promote the pleasure of reading and encourage parents and carers to read aloud with their children.  Over 1800 UK parents of primary school aged children took part in the research between 20 Aug 2007 - 12 Sept 2007.  A combination of online and telephone research techniques were used to ensure a representative sample of the UK population was approached.  Questions were developed in conjunction with some of the UK's leading university academics who specialise in literacy, including Dr. David Wray, University of Warwick, Fiona Collins, Roehampton University and Wendy Cooling, independent consultant.

The research builds on a previous study conducted to coincide with the launch of Booktime in 2006.

2. Schools

700,000 bookpacks and 727,000 school resource packs are being distributed to over 17,000 schools across the UK.  These include state schools, independent schools, special schools and those that are hard to reach.

3. Booktime & Podcast (can be played online or on an iPod)

For more information about Booktime, parents and carers can log on to http://www.booktime.pearson.com.  The site provides tips and advice on reading with children, recommended reads by age of child and an insight in to what personalities like to read with their children.  It also features a podcast interview with Funnybones author Allan Ahlberg.   Pearson and Booktrust would like to thank Allan Ahlberg for waiving royalties and supporting the initiative.

4. Interview opportunuties

  • John Makinson, Chairman and Chief Executive of Penguin Group
  • Primary school teacher/headteacher in key regions
  • Viv Bird, Director of Booktrust
  • Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood: How The Modern World Is Damaging Our Children?And What We Can Do About It
  • Prue Goodwin, lecturer in Literacy Education and Children's Books, University of Reading

5. Photographs & graphics

A range of visuals (all print quality) featuring Allan Ahlberg reading Funnybones to children and a parent reading with her children on the sofa can be downloaded by accessing http://www.booktime.pearson.com and clicking on the press materials section (pictures can be found under 'visuals')

6. About Booktime

Prime Minister, Rt. Hon Gordon Brown MP announced as Chancellor in December 2006 the expansion of Booktime. Booktime was launched in October 2006 by education and publishing company Pearson in association with independent charity Booktrust. 

Last year over 270,000 children in 7,500 UK schools received a Booktime book pack with the help of local authority and library services. This year, with the support of the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF, formerly the Department for Education and Skills), every reception child in England will receive a free book pack when they start school. In addition, at least half of all children aged four to five in the rest of the UK will receive book packs during the academic year 2007-8. 

This year's Booktime book pack will contain a free illustrated book - Puffin's children's classic Funnybones by Janet and Allan Ahlberg - and a guidance booklet for parents and carers on the benefits of shared reading. Every primary school and library in England will receive a free resource pack to coincide with the hand-out of the Booktime book packs to pupils by their class teacher. 

Resources, including activity sheets, session ideas, a short Booktime film, and a podcast of the author Allan Ahlberg will also be available to download via the Booktime website: booktime.pearson.com. 

7. About Pearson

Pearson is an international media and educational company. Its major businesses are: Pearson Education, the world's leading education business, providing print and digital learning materials and services used by more than 100 million students of all ages every year; The Financial Times Group, which has an international network of business and financial newspapers and online services that are read by millions of business executives and investors every day; and Penguin Group, which is one of the pre-eminent names in consumer publishing, with an unrivalled range of fiction and non-fiction, bestsellers, and classic titles.  Through its books, newspapers and online services, Pearson helps people of all ages to live and learn.

www.pearson.com

8. About Booktrust

Booktrust is an independent educational charity, working in association with Pearson to plan and deliver Booktime.  Booktrust's family of websites provides information about books for children, as well as news about the book world.  As coordinators of the national Bookstart books for babies scheme, Booktrust has considerable experience in this field and administers a number of prizes and projects, including Children's Book Week, The Early Years Awards and the Children's Laureate Michael Rosen.

www.booktrust.org.uk