The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™ is a biennial, national survey of children ages 6–17 and their parents, as well as parents of kids ages 0–5, exploring attitudes and behaviors around reading. As data is released throughout the spring of 2019, we’ve asked a handful of our in-house experts to dig more deeply into the report and contextualize its findings. To discuss how kids read to navigate the world, here is Lauren Tarshis:
I am constantly inspired to see how kids—even those who struggle with reading—are wildly curious about other people and far-away lands. They are ready and eager to engage in stories that will open their eyes and their hearts and challenge them to think in new ways. These are the kinds of meaningful stories that I try to tell in my I Survived series. And these are the stories that are at the core of the mission of Scholastic Classroom Magazines, where I have worked for more than 25 years.
And yet as the seventh edition of the Kids & Family Reading Report shows, the role of reading in the lives of kids is at risk. As kids get older, fewer see reading as something to do just for fun and, in turn, are reading less.
It’s especially worrisome that kids are losing their connection to reading when they need it most, in third grade. This should be a magical year in the life of a young learner, when reading opens doors to new knowledge and understanding. Yet studies show that for many children, reading struggles in third grade presage a lifetime of challenges in school and beyond.
Few of us can be surprised by the trends that show that kids are reading less. Mention the word Fortnite to a group of fourth graders and they burst out in exuberant cheers (as I witnessed at a recent school visit). According to the American Heart Association, today an average kid—whether they’re in third grade or high school—spends more than seven hours of time on screens per day. Considering this, it’s actually pretty remarkable that kids are reading as much as they are.
But the Kids & Family Reading Report also gives us reasons for hope and provided me with a call to action. Kids and parents know reading is important; they agree that reading both fiction and nonfiction is key to understanding the world.
And kids do love reading books—but not just any books. No surprise: kids want to read books that make them laugh and that introduce them to new places, new cultures, and new kinds of people.
It is these kinds of books and stories that are most likely to pull a child’s eyes away from a glowing screen, not generic “texts” or “reading passages” or “content” used to practice a reading skill.
This year’s Kids & Family Reading Report will inspire my colleagues and me to work even harder to create fascinating, meaningful stories about important topics, to create characters who inspire empathy and model resilience.
These are the stories kids and their families are asking us for, and that we need now more than ever.
Lauren Tarshis is the Senior Vice President & Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of Scholastic Magazines and the author of The New York Times bestselling series I Survived.