How to stop an 8-year-old’s reading freeze

What happens? One minute, your kids are whizzing through books like little dynamos – then suddenly their reading habits fall off a cliff. But there is a way to stop the rot before it sets in.

If you’re a parent and wondering why your child isn’t reading much anymore, you’re not alone.

A recent Scholastic survey found that American children show a sharp decline in reading for enjoyment after the age of eight.

The numbers are pretty stark, too. Where a healthy 62 percent of six to eight-year-olds enjoy reading books for fun, that percentage drops to just 46 percent for kids aged nine to 11.

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(And worryingly, after this steep dip, the figure never again creeps up above 50 percent.)

So where do that missing 16 percent of readers – we’re talking about thousands and thousands of kids here – disappear to?

Other priorities

As with all large-scale problems, there isn’t one explanation but many.

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Kids get older and become more social. Other priorities emerge. There are more and more books to read at school. Digital devices are an endless distraction. Parent story time has stopped now that they’re ‘big’.

Little by little, reading for fun slips down the priority list. So what’s the answer?

Build with books

It’s simple, really: Start early. Encourage your kids to read from a very young age. Buy them books, if you can. Read a lot yourself. Have plenty of books around the house (this absolutely does make a difference.)

Basically, build a love of reading in a child’s early years that’ll be strong enough to withstand other external pressures in the future.

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(Quick fact: a child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until about the eighth grade, so they literally get more out of being read to.)

In Scholastic’s extensive survey, perhaps the saddest statistic was this one: 40 percent of six to 11-year-olds whose parents had stopped reading aloud to them told researchers they wished they hadn’t.

Changing world

Today’s children live in a switched-on, busy world that’s almost unrecognizable from even a few years ago. Their lives are filled with too many distractions to mention.

Just 30 years ago kids were playing board games, climbing trees, making up stuff to do. A lot of the time, they were probably just bored (which isn’t half as bad as it sounds). And that left plenty of time for reading.

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All that has now changed. Most kids have a TV in their bedroom, video games, a smartphone. Screen time rules.

But here’s one thing that hasn’t changed: Sound reading habits and good literacy skills are still fundamental to a child’s future success in the world. They have to read to succeed.

Stay the course

At around age eight, many American children get hit by a big wave of ‘other stuff’ that knocks books clean out of their hands. Sadly, some never really pick them up again.

But established book fans who already know the rewards of reading for pleasure might not be so easily swayed. They’ll cling on to their beloved pages and stay the course.

So get kids reading early. Nurture that love for the written word. Then just watch them ride effortlessly over that ‘other stuff’ wave, probably with a good book still in their hand.

Book Trust is dedicated to ensuring kids from low-income areas are able to choose and buy their own books. Every child deserves an opportunity to fall in love with reading – and we make that happen.

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