Creating good reading habits in young children

Creating good reading habits in young children

More than 1 in 3 parents of preschool children in 7 European countries, USA, China and Brazil do not read to their preschool children on a regular, daily basis.

Our most recent Kidz Global study, The Kid Consumer 2019, which tracks the lives, habits and consumer behavior of over 18,000 kids aged 3-14, reveals that over a third of preschoolers across 10 countries:

·   miss out on that special bonding moment of stories at bedtime, shared with a parent;

·   miss out on regular joy of storytelling with books, the visualization, imagination and relaxation it provides;

·  and the immeasurably valuable precursor, the foundations of reading, which preschool story books offer in the form of tactile and beautifully illustrated books.

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Italy has one of the lowest levels of reading participation, with 44% of parents not reading to their preschoolers on a regular, daily basis. Significantly fewer Italian parents affirmed that their preschool child enjoys using books or looking at the pictures in books.

Do Italian preschoolers have less access to books? As few as 58% of Italian parents use their own books to read to their preschool children. Compare that to the number of parents in the USA (82%), Germany (79%) or UK (76%) who use their own books to read to their preschool children.

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The spotlight is often placed on kids of reading age, i.e. kids who can independently read, aged 6+. The challenge for the publishing industry is that the less engaged parents are in introducing books, reading and storytelling to preschool kids, the fewer books they own. 

When books are not owned, not ready to hand for that moment when a preschool child asks for a story, these less engaged parents reach for their mobile devices, to find reading content and create the habit of ‘screen reading’ in their kids from an early age.

It’s no coincidence, that, at 19%, use of tablets for reading to preschoolers in Italy is nearly double what it is in other countries and that this higher propensity to use mobile digital devices perpetuates in to older age groups too. 21% of Italian kids aged 6-8 use a mobile phone to read, compared to 15% on average across Euro 7 countries. This trend is not explained away by higher ownership of mobile phones or tablets in Italy.  Far from it.  Italian kids have lower levels of ownership of devices in general and across ages. And this limited ownership of both books and digital devices means less opportunity to instigate reading of their own free will.

Summary

It would be wrong to assume, with the steady march of digital technology in to all corners of our lives, that kids are simply migrating away from traditional printed materials and on to digital format reading as soon as they are able to read of the own free will. At a crucial age when printed materials support and engage early readers, and individual ownership of electronic devices in the Euro 7 countries amongst 6 to 8 year olds is less than 30%, novice readers still prefer to read printed material, books they own, books they borrow from friends or family, library books, school reading scheme books or comics.

Parents who don’t routinely read to their preschool kids at bedtime may be no less willing and able to create the special bonding moments of stories at bedtime, both relaxing and fun for parent and child, but they need reminding of the benefits which they have ‘lost sight of’, benefits which accrue from an activity that's easy to introduce in to the daily bedtime routine.

For the sustainability of publishing in the long term, more may need to be done to educate parents of preschoolers about the early years advantage for kids in having access to a variety of books, to support not just their education and academic development, but to increase their child's cognitive abilities in the broadest sense, to nurture the inquisitiveness and imagination which a love of books satisfies.

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