Reading: Are teenagers falling out of love with books?

Thursday, December 12, 2019

As part of the Pisa tests carried out across 79 countries, teenagers in Wales sat tests in reading, maths and science set by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Alongside the tests, pupils were also asked additional questions about things such as their reading habits and wellbeing.

It makes sobering reading (for those who still do, that is).

A total of 44% of the 3,165 pupils from across Wales said they rarely or never read, compared to 35% across the OECD countries which took part.

Pupils in Wales generally had more negative attitudes towards reading than their peers in other countries.

In 2018, 57% said they read "only if I have to", which had risen quite steeply from 44% in 2009 - across OECD countries it was 49% and 41% respectively.

The number who said they did not read for enjoyment rose from 42% in 2009 to 53% in 2018 and the number who read for 30 minutes or less a day fell from 30% in 2009 to 22% in 2018.

nterestingly, despite saying they read less, Welsh pupils were more confident of their reading abilities than their OECD peers, with 83% agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement: "I am a good reader", compared to 71% among the OECD cohort.

Is it a coincidence these figures for a fall in reading have coincided with the invention of the iPad (2010) and the ubiquity of a mobile phone in the hand?

Probably not, but Wales education minister Kirsty Williams did put a positive spin on the fact that Welsh children report being online more than the OECD average by saying if they were reading different texts online "that's something."

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However, she admitted the the book statistic was a "challenging one".

"We know that after the quality of teaching in classrooms, the second biggest influence in a child's educational outcomes is parents," she told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast.

"Clearly, the availability of books and developing a love of reading from a very early age is really important if we are to see an improvement in our reading scores."

Helen Wales, head of reading charity Book Trust Cymru seconded the view that getting a reading routine in place in the early years was a "big factor", along with children seeing parents reading themselves.

"We understand it's harder as children grow up, especially for reluctant readers, and there are so many time pressures and distractions for teens, so tempting them with a physical book can be tricky but it's not impossible," she said.

"Children simply may not be reading because they are not engaged with the text, but we can confidently say that all it takes is one book to get them hooked and they will continue to read.

"So, if they love films, try the book that inspired the film."

Source: BBC News