Scholastic has released the sixth edition of its Kids & Family Reading Report, the company’s biannual survey of kids 6–17 and their parents regarding their attitudes and behaviors around reading. Key findings from the report reveal parents’ views about diversity in children’s literature and about summer reading, what parents and children look for in children’s books, a marked increase in the practice of parents reading aloud to young—and very young— children, the challenges of inequitable access to children’s books in the home, and which books parents’ and kids’ favorites. In addition, this year, for the first time, the report contains sub-group data with a focus on African-American and Hispanic families.
One of the biggest changes reflected in the latest data pertains to parents’ reporting on reading aloud to their children. Seventy-seven percent of parents with children ages 0-5 say they began reading aloud to their child before age one, and 40% of parents—a bump up from 30% in 2014—reported that they began the practice when their child was less than three months old. An increase in the frequency with which parents read aloud to young children has also been reported. In 2016, 62% of parents with kids ages 3–5 said they read to their child 5–7 days per week compared with 55% of parents in the same category in 2014. Though these increases are to be celebrated, the report also shows that there is a decrease in reading aloud to children after age five. And taking a closer look at the reading aloud category, 49% of Hispanic children ages 0–5 were read aloud to 5–7 days a week in 2016 and 63% of children ages 0–5 in non-Hispanic families were read to 5–7 days a week.
When it comes to children’s and families’ access to reading material, the report reveals that higher-income families have more children’s books in the home on average. Households earning more than $100,000 per year have an average of 127 books in the home, while households earning less than $35,000 per year have an average of 68 books in the home—nearly half as many. Highlighting responses from African-American families, the report shows that on average, African-American families have 67 children’s books in their home compared to 104 books on average among all families. The disparity seen in this category of data is “a strong call to action to ensure we are all working hard to get books into the hands of every child,” said Scholastic chairman, president, and CEO Richard Robinson in his introduction to the report.
Asked to complete the statement “To me, diversity in books for children and teens includes…” 73% of parents responded “people and experiences different than those of my child,” 68% said “various cultures, customs, religions,” 51% “differently-abled people (physical, emotional),” 47% listed “people of color,” and 21% said “LGBTQ people.”
Parents and children are pretty much in agreement on what kinds of books they enjoy reading for fun. Thirty-seven percent of kids and 42% of parents look for a book that has “a good story,” and 42% of kids and 37% of parents want a book that makes them laugh. The top five books or series that parents’ believe every child should read include Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.