The battle to get kids to read is not lost.
Contrary to popular belief, most parents have kids who are bigger bookworms than they were at the same age, an exclusive survey shows.
The survey by consumer data company Fonto reveals 68 per cent of parents say their school aged children read at least as much, if not more, than they did as youngsters.
The survey findings are backed by new data that shows a surge in children’s book sales over the past five years.
Nielsen BookScan figures show sales grew 17 per cent from 2017 to 2021 when 30 million kids’ books were snapped up around Australia.
While this was down on the 31.9 million books sold in 2020, when Covid lockdowns and restrictions drove a surge in sales, it was well up on the 28.4 million sales of 2019.
Children’s literature and education expert Dr Helen Adam, from Edith Cowan University, described the findings as “exciting and really encouraging”, saying reading was a key to boosting a child’s comprehension, vocabulary and literacy skills.
“Maybe one of the positives to come out of the pandemic and lockdowns is a rediscovery of sharing books with kids and a growth in kids’ love of reading,” Dr Adam said.
She said the challenge was now to ensure the gains were not lost, particularly as cost of living pressures started to bite.
“As we come out of the pandemic, with inflation and higher costs of living, there’s the potential we might see a drop if families can’t afford to buy books,” she said.
“Parents know of the importance of books – the survey is evidence of that – but we need to make sure there’s equitable access to books across the board because books are really expensive.”
Dr Adam said the tough times families faced highlighted the need for well-funded school and public libraries, as well as programs like Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library which sees free books sent to young children in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia every month.
She said there was also “really strong evidence” that schools with well-resourced libraries and a qualified teacher librarian got better NAPLAN and other test results.
The Nielsen BookScan data shows titles including Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different by Ben Brooks, The Treehouse Joke Book by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, and Bruce Pascoe’s Young Dark Emu drove the rise in children’s book sales from 2017 to 2021.
The online Fonto survey of 1528 parents showed 29 per cent said their children were bigger readers than they were at the same age, 39 per cent said they were about the same and 32 per cent said their children read less.
Kids aged 5-7 were most likely to be bigger bookworms than mum and dad, while teenagers were most likely to read less than their parents.
Macy Jeffrey, 8, probably didn’t get her love of reading from her mum or dad.
The year 2 student is a fan of the Billie B Brown series by Sally Rippin and will take any opportunity to put her nose in a book.
“She will proactively come up and ask to read to me or with me, she really enjoys it,” dad Sam said. “We’ve often found her in her room by herself reading and I’ve caught her reading under the doona in bed with a light when she’s supposed to be asleep.
“I can’t remember being that into books in grade 2. There’s no way I would have been reading in my room at that age and I don’t think my wife was really a reader at year 2 either.”
Mr Jeffrey said that as well as being encouraged to read at home, Macy benefited from a great school reading program that required her to fill out a daily journal with her thoughts and feelings on each book she read.
The Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee is a free online competition for students in years 3-8. Teacher registrations are open to August 19, with the school round of the competition running from August 15 to 26.
Originally published as Most parents winning battle of the books, with their kids reading more than they did at same age