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Reading being crowded out of children’s lives

7 Sep 2012

New National Literacy Trust research Children’s Reading Today shows that children are reading less as their lives get more crowded. In 2005, four young people in 10 read daily outside of class. Today only three young people in 10 read daily in their own time. On the eve of International Literacy Day, the charity is calling for a national campaign to halt this decline.

Funded by law firm Slaughter and May, the research with 21,000 children and young people across the UK reveals the number of children who enjoy reading very much or quite a lot has remained static since 2005 (50% today vs 51% in 2005). This highlights a clear issue with children’s leisure time with many children enjoying reading but pushing it out in favour of other activities. The research found:


  • More than a fifth of children (22%) rarely or never read in their own time
  • More than half (54%) prefer watching TV to reading
  • Nearly a fifth (17%) would even be embarrassed if their friends saw them reading
  • 77% of children read magazines in 2005 now just 57% do, comic reading has dropped from 64% to 50%, reading on websites from 64% to 50%

It is essential to make the time for children to read as the research shows there is a clear link between reading outside of class and children’s achievement. It found young people who read outside of class daily were 13 times more likely to read above the expected level for their age. Children in the UK are currently ranked 25th out of 65 developed countries in reading.**

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust said:

The fact that children are reading less than in 2005 signals a worrying shift in young people’s literacy habits. We are calling for the Government to back a campaign to halt this reading decline and to give children time to read in their daily lives.

We believe we need to inspire a new generation to read in the same way that the Olympics is inspiring a new generation to take part in sport. We need to make reading irresistible. We want to call on families and professionals working with children and young people to make ten minutes in their day for reading.

Government-funded activity such as the 2008 National Year of Reading has had great success in improving motivation to read. The 2008 initiative saw 2.3 million people join their local library.

 Claire Smith, Principal of Bedford Academy added:

Some of our children can be reluctant to pick up a book and read in their spare time. They need a lot of motivation to encourage them to do so. We use different initiatives to grab their attention, including the National Literacy Trust’s Premier League Reading Stars programme which uses football to encourage children to read more.


Notes to editors

* Clark, C. (2012). Children’s Reading Today. Findings from the National Literacy Trust’s annual survey.  London: National Literacy Trust


About the National Literacy Trust

The National Literacy Trust is an independent charity that transforms lives through literacy. We believe that society will only be fair when everyone has the literacy skills they need to communicate, to fulfil their potential and to contribute more to society. We campaign to improve public understanding of the vital importance of literacy, as well as delivering projects and working in partnership to reach those most in need of support.

To help us transform lives through literacy, you can make a donation.  To find out how visit

National Literacy Trust is a registered charity (registered no. 1116260 in England and Wales and registered no. SCO42944 in Scotland), and a company limited by guarantee, no. 5836486. Registered in England and Wales. Registered address: 68 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL. Tel: 020 7587 1842.

About Bedford Academy

Bedford Academy is a state funded independent school initially for students aged 13 to 18 but will become an 11-18 school within a few years.

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The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity no. 1116260 and a company limited by guarantee no. 5836486 registered in England and Wales and a registered charity in Scotland no. SC042944.
Registered address: 68 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL.