More than 70% of children aged between six and 14 read fiction. Non-fiction is read by around 60% or more of those aged between nine and sixteen. These encouraging statistics are just some of the fascinating information to emerge from an important new survey of reading habits in Britain funded by the Library and Information Commission and conducted by Book Marketing Ltd and the library development agency, the Reading Partnership – Reading the Situation: Book Reading, Buying and Borrowing in Britain*. Using a nationally representative sample of households and randomly selected groups from the population at large, the survey offers an insight into the habits of both readers and non-readers, including book borrowing and book buying.
So far as young readers are concerned, the research reveals the unsurprising fact that those children who enjoy reading from an early age tend not to give up the habit. Although they may find it hard to read as much as they would like at certain points in their lives (reading as a leisure activity tends to tail off when children start secondary school), they become enthusiastic readers again once they have the opportunity. Interestingly, the survey discovers that many parents who are not habitual readers themselves will read to and with their children since they believe that reading will benefit their children.
More information is provided about the gender divide in reading. It appears that boys and girls read fiction in relatively equal measure (75% of girls compared to 66% of boys) but that the gap widens amongst adults. Adult women will tend to recommend books to each other and like discussing books while men are more cautious. It thus appears that encouraging boys to be more open about discussing what they are reading is an important area which needs more attention and development.
In the next issue of BfK, Anne Marley of Hampshire County Library will be discussing her highly innovative and successful Dads ‘n’ Lads project. A reading group was set up in collaboration with local schools which aimed to encourage boys to read and fathers to participate in this activity with their sons. One of the Dads ‘n’ Lads findings was that, if encouraged, boys do like to talk about books and listen to recommendations and they also like being able to recommend books to other people. Hampshire’s experience thus suggests that there are practical ways forward.
* Available from Book Marketing Ltd, 7A Bedford Square, London WC1B 3RA (tel: 020 7580 7282) at £37.50 for the book trade and public sector and £75 for others.