PARENTS lack time for their children, according to a study published this week. So, setting up regular family activities in which everyone can participate is the key, argues Sally Peck.
One in six mothers and fathers admit that they never read to their children before bedtime and a third share a book no more than once a week, figures show.
A study commissioned by the publisher, Pearson, found that pupils aged 11 and under now spent three times as long “on screen” as they do buried in a book.
Teachers warned that over-exposure to technology is damaging children’s attention spans – making it harder for them to meet the demands of secondary education.
The comments come amid continuing concerns over children’s attitudes towards reading in school and the home.
Research published this summer found that many young people refused to pick up a book outside school for fear they would be labelled a “geek” in front of friends.
Claire Tomalin, the acclaimed biographer, said many pupils had such poor attention spans that they were unable to access books by Charles Dickens such as Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities.
Rod Bristow, Pearson president, said: “Study after study has shown reading for pleasure is a key indicator of future success for children, but demands on their attention and the difficulty of inspiring reluctant readers mean many are missing out”.
Today’s research was based on a survey of 400 English teachers and 2000 parents with children aged two to 11.
The study found that more than one in six mothers and fathers admitted that they never read a bedtime story to their children. And 30% said they read no more than once a week.
Children are also spending three times as long in front of the TV, internet or games consoles as they do reading in the home, it was revealed. Parents reported that the average child spent 90 minutes watching television, 42 minutes playing games and almost half-an-hour on the internet each day.
Teachers complain that the lack of access to books in the home was now damaging children’s school work.
More than three-quarters warned that children’s attention spans were shorter than ever before in the classroom at the start of secondary school. Nearly all teachers said parents were failing to spend enough time with their children encouraging reading for pleasure.
In response, Pearson today launched a national “Enjoy Reading” campaign aimed at encouraging children to develop an early love of reading.
This includes giving away 1.4-million books to families with reception age children, developing e-books that pupils can read on screen and creating a new “digital searchcloud” to help them identify their favourite texts. — The Daily Telegraph