Dystopian teen novels such as the Hunger Games trilogy are likely to be one reason for children being increasingly likely to say they enjoy reading, say literacy experts.
A new survey from the National Literacy Trust reveals that 41 per cent of children aged 8 to 18 said they read daily outside class in 2014, up from 32 per cent in the previous year.
And the proportion of teenagers aged 14 to 16 who say they enjoy reading has jumped from 37 per cent last year to 43 per cent this year – although overall levels of enjoyment remain lower than for younger children.
National Literacy Trust Director Jonathan Douglas said there could be a number of reasons for the rise in the number of older teenagers who enjoy reading. “A new wave of hugely popular fiction such as the Twilight and the Hunger Games series has played its part in engaging readers,” he said. “A series of major campaigns and initiatives including Bookstart, the Summer Reading Challenge, and the Young Readers Programme have combined with the attraction and ease of digital reading.”
While the most popular form of reading for all children was text messages – which are read at least once a month by 73 per cent of pupils, the survey also found that 47 per cent of children read fiction, 31 per cent read newspapers and 60 per cent read websites. Magazines were the only format that had seen a decline in popularity, from 58 per cent picking them up once a month in 2010 to 49 per cent last year.
Those who read each day outside lessons are five times more likely to be above the expected level in the subject for their age group, compared to youngsters who never read outside school.
But the annual study of 32,000 students also shows a continuing gender gap, with boys less likely to enjoy reading than girls, and suggests that many youngsters would still rather watch TV than have their nose in a book.
More than half (55 per cent) of those polled still prefer watching TV to reading, although this is down slightly on the year before, and three in 10 say they cannot find things to read that interest them.
Just over one in four say they only read when they have to and 24 per cent say their parents do not care if they spend any time reading.
Malorie Blackman, children’s laureate, said: “We must continue to work to ensure that all our children develop the reading for pleasure habit to improve their life chances. To this end we must ensure that each child has access to the literacy tools they require – including school libraries and public libraries – to fulfil their true potential.”
Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse, said: “The government should remember that literacy must first and foremost be enjoyed, if we are to engage our most reluctant readers. And remember too that libraries and librarians, both in schools and in our communities, must be a priority.”