Sunday, 30 March 2008

Proper reading

A report on the BBC website describes the results of a survey of favourite reading material of children aged 11 to 14. The National Year of Reading report shows that more youngsters are choosing online sites as a reading source. Not all parents are comfortable with this shift and many have told off their children for choosing material that is not "proper reading", says the survey.

Anything set for homework, and Shakespeare, come out as the least favourite reading materials. The Read Up, Fed Up report is an insight into the reading habits of young people and the conclusion of a month-long research project co-ordinated by National Year of Reading and online teen community Piczo. In the Read Up section of favourites, Heat magazine came first with Bliss magazine and online song lyrics joint second. Other favourites in the top 10 were the Harry Potter series, Anne Frank's Diary and the BBC website.

The Fed Up column had homework in first place, followed by Shakespeare and books with more than 100 pages. Others in this list of 10 least favourites included "reading about skinny celebrities in magazines", "the books I am made to read by school/my teachers" - and the Financial Times.

More than 1,300 young people took part in the survey, which found that 45% of youngsters had been reprimanded by parents for reading something that was not "proper reading".

National Year of Reading director Honor Wilson-Fletcher said: "Young people are web natives - exposed to a wider variety of reading material than any previous generation through the explosion of digital media. It seems not all adults are comfortable with this shift, and are often discouraging teens from taking advantage of this new reading landscape. Accessing the digital universe is absolutely central to life's opportunities for teens. We may be only just starting to understand the dynamics of online reading, but adults need to feel more positive about it and to learn more about it."

The research found a gender divide to reading with 31% of boys saying they love reading because it helps them become better at their hobbies, like sport, films or music. On the other hand 39% of girls said they loved it because it is an escape - quiet time they can enjoy on their own.

Schools Minister Jim Knight said: "It is vital that young people have the opportunity to read widely. It is wonderful that 80% of the teenagers surveyed write their own stories and keep up-to-date with current affairs by using sites like BBC Online. It's wonderful that Anne Frank's Diary is still proving so popular among teenagers 60 years after it was written."

Compiling their own online blogs came fourth in the Read Up rankings and 80% of those taking part said they had written their own story, film, play or song.

I guess what we can learn from this is that reading habits are evolving - children prefer short blasts of reading rather than reading in depth long books. Also, as reflected in the new literacy framework, on screen reading is becoming more frequent.

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