Annual research has revealed that the number of pre-school children being read to daily has dropped from seven out of ten (69%) to just over half (51%) over the past five years.
Egmont co-funds Nielsen Book Research’s annual Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer survey into the reading habits of UK children which found that 58% of parents of 3-4-year-olds were stopped from reading to their children by a number of obstacles, the greatest being the struggle to find energy at the end of the day (19%), as well as the child’s preference to do other things (16%). This correlates with an uptake in toddlers watching online video content daily (up by almost one fifth between 2013-2017).
Whilst daily reading for pleasure among 0-17s was up by 4% year-on-year, with three in ten 0-17-year-olds doing so, Egmont stressed that this steep decline in pre-schoolers reading and being read to signalled a significant threat to child development, with potential long-term social impact.
The data, which was presented by Egmont to industry peers at a conference yesterday, also revealed that one in five (21%) parents of children in the 3-4 age group don’t feel comfortable in bookshops, and nearly half (46%) are overwhelmed by the choice of children’s books, acting as further barriers to raising children who enjoy reading. Further research by Egmont also revealed that parents often felt anxious about taking disruptive toddlers into a bookshop or library.
The survey also showed that three in five (61%) parents with children in this age group worry about the amount of time their children spend in front of a screen.
“We know that parents are increasingly concerned about screen time, especially the popularity of YouTube amongst young children. Our research tells us we need to give children a real range of print alternatives to choose from: whether that’s a magazine, a graphic novel, a comic or a picture book. A sense of agency, and being given the freedom to pick their own reading material, is far more effective in creating life-long readers than a strict reading list.”
Egmont has been working with retailers on a number of projects to explore how to increase the numbers of children being read to and reading for themselves, and how to reach those families who buy the smallest proportion of books a year: 70% of the UK population who buy children’s books – around 11.2 million people – only buy between 1-5 children’s books a year.