reading with children. books for babies, books for toddlers

New research has revealed that 20% of parents spend no time at all reading with their primary school aged children, while 54% of parents of children aged 5-11 spend less than one hour a week reading to their kids. Experts recommend that children spend at least 20 minutes per day reading to develop their literacy skills.

The results come from a YouGov survey of 448 parents in the UK with children between the ages of five and 11, commissioned by Book People for its second annual Bedtime Story Competition, which is open to children of the same age.

The survey examined the thoughts of parents on their primary school age children’s reading and technology habits, and their friendships.The results also revealed that one third of parents do not believe that their children read enough books. 65% of parents say that they set a good example with their own reading habits whereas 29% do not think they do.

With the UK being ranked only 22nd in the year for reading within the influential 2015 Pisa school rankings, behind countries such as Estonia, Slovenia, Poland and Australia, 10% of respondents said they would use books as a method of drawing their child’s attention away from something, such as when they are disruptive, bored or upset. More than a quarter of parents (29%) would give their children a smartphone or tablet in such a situation, while 28% would put a film or TV programme on. In addition, two thirds of respondents (67%) stated their children aged between five and 11 have their own tablet/smartphone, or share it with a sibling.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Bedtime Story Competition Head Judge and ambassador, Claudia Winkleman said: “I always try and get my kids off a screen and I love them reading books. I said to them quite recently “Guys you know what, even if you’re just pretending, if I could walk in to the kitchen and maybe you’re all just lounging around and you’re all just sitting there reading a book, I would give you whatever you wanted.”

When parents were asked if they were concerned about their primary school-age children not having friends, 57% said they were not. However, an analysis of the 1,300 entries to Book People’s first Bedtime Story competition last year reflected children’s concerns, as it showed more than two thirds of the stories focussed on the subjects of bullying, loneliness or being different. More than one in four parents (27%) said they were most concerned about their child getting involved with the wrong crowd, while 23% worried about their children’s friends having a negative impact on their self-confidence.

Book People’s Bedtime Story survey also asked parents about the impact of social media on their children’s friendships, with a third of respondents (34%) saying they believe social media has a negative impact on their child’s friendships, compared to 16% who think it has a positive impact. Most popular social networks require that a child is at least 13 years of age to sign up for an account.

The survey follows the July launch of leading direct bookseller Book People’s second Bedtime Story Competition, which challenges young authors aged between five and 11 to create a picture book on the theme of friendship. The judging panel is led by Strictly Come Dancing presenter Claudia Winkelman, and the winner will become a published author, with their book being brought to life by top illustrator Alison Brown, and published by Little Tiger.

Bedtime Story Competition Judge and campaign Ambassador, Christian O’Connell said: “My daughters are now 10 and 13, but I used to love reading to them at bedtime. It was always a really nice way of calming down and felt like a full stop on the day. It was always something that I really looked forward to.”

Commenting on the research Sarah Walden, Book People Group Buying and Merchandising Director said: “The findings from the survey are both intriguing and alarming and show that as a nation we can certainly do more to encourage the next generation of readers and authors. Electronic devices are always competing for everyone’s attention, but spending a couple hours a week reading with your children works out at less than 20 minutes a day, and allows you to spend true quality time with them. At Book People, we’re passionate about spreading the joy of reading and supporting child literacy, and this year’s Bedtime Story Competition is another great way to engage children in reading, writing and the joy of storytelling.”

Book People’s Bedtime Story Competition is now live with entries open until 2 October this year. To find out how to enter this year’s competition please visit thebookpeople.co.uk/bedtimestory.


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