Another Scholastic Survey Finds Kids Don’t Do Enough Pleasure Reading

According to a survey released today by Scholastic, many children in the USA are too busy, too distracted and, in some cases, too tired to read books for fun. Schoolwork, homework and the inability to find a book they like keeps most children from doing more than their required school reading. The findings are similar to those released last year by the National Endowment for the Arts, which reported that from 1984 to 2004, the percentage of 17-year-olds who “never or hardly ever” read for fun rose from 9% to 19%. The Scholastic report found that, on average, one in four children read for fun every day and another 40% read for fun at least a few times a week — but 22% rarely, if ever, do. And as kids get older, it finds, the percentage who rarely read for fun grows from 8% to 37%. Read the entire report here.

10 thoughts on “Another Scholastic Survey Finds Kids Don’t Do Enough Pleasure Reading

  1. I found page 15 of the report very interesting. It seems 27% of the kids said they are not reading more books for fun because they have too much homework. 31% said it is because they would rather be doing other things. (If I had too much homework, I would rather do other things besides read, too). The report did not go into further detail regarding these subjects. Only 26% said they had trouble finding books that they liked, yet the report covered this in detail. I also found it interesting that 37% of the 15-17 age group said they didn’t have time to read and 23% of this same age group said they were often too tired to read. I think the impact of homework on “kids reading for fun” is being overlooked.


  2. Mary wrote, above:

    I also found it interesting that 37% of the 15-17 age group said they didn’t have time to read and 23% of this same age group said they were often too tired to read. I think the impact of homework on “kids reading for fun” is being overlooked.


    Absolutely. It is very much being overlooked. The report spent more time telling us that children aren’t reading because they can’t find books they like. Huh? I live practically next door to a regional library and if I spent every waking hour reading for a year, I don’t think I’d hit every single book on those shelves. And this library isn’t even “A Clean Well Lighted Place,” a lovely homegrown bookstore in San Francisco we lived next door to years ago.

    How can children not find books they like? Could it be this is an excuse? Kids are disaffected from reading for many reasons, computer and video games, no one to read to them, and the greatest culprit, homework chief among them. I doubt it’s because they can’t find books they like. Start with Newbury, you can’t go wrong.

    As for Mary’s comment (above), look at the teen group. A large percentage say they have no time to read while another reports they are too tired to read. I have a teenager who still reads voraciously. But the comments are telling. They don’t have time and are too tired because homework sucks up every minute and the unwritten expectation is that a teen must not go to bed before all homework is done. That would be irresponsible.

    This study is shoddy because it all but ignored homework’s effects on reading. Or maybe it just doesn’t want to go there.



  3. I truly believe that the Accelerated Reading program has done more to turn off children than anything. In our family we have children who loved to read, but watched their AR points get beyond fun. THere were so many books they wanted to read but couldn’t because the books weren’t on the school’s AR list. Then there are the children who never liked reading. These children were forced to read at least 20 minutes every day all year long. They reached the point that reading was punishment in and of itself. I hate ironing. Making me iron 20 minutes a day won’t change that fact folks.


  4. Johniene, so well put. Excellent point.

    My daughter’s private elementary school was really jazzed about Accelerated Reader. And believe me, this too traditional school looked like Montessori of the Alps as compared to public school which she switched to for 5th grade. The private school constantly promoted AR. Luckily, I was one step ahead of them. When DD was in pre-school, I was interviewing schools around the country for a possible big name headliner for a fundraiser and a lovely progressive private school suggested Alfie Kohn.

    The preschool nixed the program (David Elkind was the speaker I’d signed up) but I found Alfie in the bookstore and devoured him. I had more luck along the way. While the pre-school recommended rewards for toilet training, my very wise pediatrician warned no, you’ll be sorry.

    I read “Punished by Rewards” the summer daughter entered 3rd grade and it changed my life. For those of you who’ve read the book, I don’t have to tell you what Alfie thinks of Accelerated Reader. You know that famous quip he quotes when talking about Pizza Hut’s much heralded Pizza for Reading program? “It’ll produce fat kids who can’t read.”

    My daughter always loved us reading to her. But her reading really exploded in 2nd grade. That is when she would curl up with books for hours and devour novel after novel. A whole imaginary world opened up to her. If your child loves reading, you never hear, “I am bored.” All you need is a book and you can go anywhere. No run down batteries, no malfunctioning parts, just a stack of pages and a cover. That’s it. Low tech, works every single time!

    I decided not to encourage AR from the start. I wondered if I should discourage it all together. My daughter always needed reminders then to do just about anything so I slyly simply never reminded her. She’d go into the school library under the false pretense of taking AR tests but would just sit there and read. Anything to get out of recess (I am the most ardent supporter to protect recess but she was teased and bullied so the playground was not a safe place for her).

    Daughter maybe took one or two AR tests that year. When she did, it was for sport, she neither picked books based on it or kept track of her points. Blessedly it was not part of the curriculum. I will say this. Had it been, I could have gone to the Head of School and asked that AR be removed as a requirement. She was fairly receptive to my complaints. Love of learning is too delicate a thing to tamper with.

    So daughter read and read happily and well all year long. This is a kid I’d find reading in the bathtub, shampoo congealing on her head. To this day, as a teen, I still see the book propped behind the faucet while she brushes her teeth. She gets dressed with one foot holding the book down. She reads a book in the orthodontist’s chair, while getting her hair cut, even as the doctor examines her! She would read at dinner but we do draw the line. Unquestionably she was the most prolific reader in the school.

    Come the last day of school, the awards ceremony, and they’d call the child up who read the most. She’d never get the award because it wasn’t based on who read the most but who got the most points on AR tests! Alfie Kohn hates those awards ceremonies and recommends we all boycott them. The public school ones were even worse.

    I must say that is the only day I had a pang, a twinge. I didn’t change my philosophy, we still avoided AR. But I thought, she walks around with a book in her hand all the time, she would easily read all afternoon and evening if there was no homework and no recognition? And then I stopped. It’s not about awards and accolades and stars, I told myself. It’s about the rapture of reading, growing a life long learner. I told daughter exactly that after school was done and she beamed. That is the moment when you know with sharp clarity that you are doing something right.

    My friends thought I was crazy. No schadenfreude here, I swear, but I will say this. My daughter is still a passionate reader, the others no longer read for pleasure. I rest my case.



  5. may I share my experience as trainer at Kids college in India.
    this report is well articulated for developing reading habits which is the basis for cognitive developments at early age of before 10 years.
    Kids can get better enjoyment from other digital media where they can think and imagine for their own ideas and perception. Digital media can train the kids effectively and efficiently if it is used constructively. otherwise, it can drain their brain destructively. only print media can guide them.
    today kids do not like conservative printing , language style. Editors and printers must read the dynamic mind of kids for develing reading habbits. Reading habbits do not diminish dractically over the ages.


  6. First I have to say I love my children’s school but if I could change 1 thing it would be the AR program. My son does very well in school but we continue to be frustrated with this program. He is an excellent reader and when he finds a book he loves he will absorb it. But we find, because he doesn’t enjoy most books, his teachers continue to lable him -through the AR program- as a ‘challenged’ reader’ and keep his AR level so low that he can’t find books that he enjoys. They call him ‘challenged’ because he starts and stops books all the time. But yet he scores very high on state mandated reading tests.

    We are a very active family and he participates in out of school activities year round. (which he dearly loves!) Usually about 2 times a week. He also has his nightly home work- about 10-20 minutes and also 20 minutes of evening reading, that the school promotes heavily. Last year, during school hours, he was in a book club for about 30 minutes(part of the school curriculum-not AR), he had 40 minutes of seperate AR reading in school (a book he could NOT bring home), 20 minutes of reading a night (a book he could choose from home or Lirbrary-he always choose AR books because he wanted to meet his goal) and bringing home 2-3 library books a week,which NEVER got read. At times he was forced to read 3 different books ALL AT THE SAME TIME! My questions is “How on earth can a child learn the ‘love’ of reading under all that pressue?”I should mention he was in 3rd grade last year. Last year in any given WEEK my son had 4-6 ‘seperate’ books he was supposed to be enjoying and reading!

    I don’t read 3-6 books at one time so I don’t expect that my child should have to either. Truthfully, that is probably the reason he starts books and can’t finish them. It is just too much.

    This year he is beginning 4th grade and was put back at a 2.9 reading level! I was floored when I found this out! Over the summer he started reading the Narnia books and loves them! Now he can’t even test on them because they are too high- 5th grade reading! He was at a 2.9 level reading at the END of his first grade year! There is no way he wants to re-read those types of books. I tried talking to his teacher but was again told “they want him to show that he can read these books, finish them and take the test before he can be moved up”. I wanted to scream, rant and rave- but I didn’t. I know he is perfectly capable of reading at a higher level beacuse he and I always discuss the books he reads. I always read the books first so I know what he is reading, if he will like the book and quiz him after he reads it. By quizing I mean we just discuss the book in conversation.

    Like I said before, our school has state mandated tests that students take and my son has passed the reading test with flying colors and is rated among the top readers in the state (for his age). So what is the deal- I don’t get it!

    In my opinion AR does nothing but force children to read books they don’t care about. Also it takes away from the time they could use to read a book they truely love! There has got to be a better way.

    My goal this year is to help implement a few small changes at the school so at the very least children aren’t encuoraged to read more than 1 book at a time. Then after that I hope to be able to enourage the school to publish a list of tried and tested – well loved books that children enjoy reading. So parents have a source to go to to help their children to find the true pleasure of reading.

    Last year while my son and I were struggling with AR his teacher suggested he read ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocalte Factory’. I never would have suggested this book (thinking it was too old fashioned) and I know my son would never have chosen it on his own- but he loved it. After reading just a few chapters he was begging for a choclate bar! Teachers are a wonderful source and when asked they really do know what children like!

    I think AR could work but the children need to be given more freedom to read what they enjoy. There should not goal of points that a child has to reach but rather show that they can read a book and pass the test. Typically children at my sons age are given a 15-20 point goal. (some lower and some higher) Most books my son reads (Narnia- Willy Wonka, Animorphs) are worth an average of 5 points. So that means in one trimester (average of 2 months)he needs to read 4 of these books. Frankly I would be happy if he read 1 of those books, pass the test and LOVE the book. Afterall – he is only 9 years old.


  7. Stop Homework? This is exactly why schools are being blamed for a lack of education. Parents want their kids to come home and be involved in sports, dance, music, and clubs instead of doing homework. The parents are the ones who don’t want to work. Let the schools teach them.. it’s not my job, they say. Kids don’t pleasure read, because they have no model at home. Stop shunning your responsibility. If we want our kids to succeed, all have to be a part of their education. That includes the parents. Stop thinking of homework as a bother and an interference to your fun time. Make education the priority in your lives.


  8. Nancy,

    A very interesting comment. I for one am an advid reader. I read to my children and for my own pleasure. I also love to sit down and do homework with my children. I also volunteer at least 4 hours a week at my children’s school and participate heavily in the PTA and any school related activity. So I would say I am a role model to my children!

    And yes, I still hate AR reading.

    Yes, my children are also in afterschool activities. Yes, I think those activities are important. You guessed it, my husband and I have coached and organize teams and events. Yes, I think theese activities are just as important as school. It keeps children active and healthy. They also begin to learn what they enjoy doing in life. Do I think all homework should be stopped? No! My only complaint is the amount of reading that is required at such a young age. My children are in grade school and each child has about 10-20 minutes of home work. That is easily fit in to any schedule. But reading 3 books at 1 time- NO WAY shouldn’t be done.

    Don’t be so quick to judge and put all us parents into one catagory of laziness. Gone are the days that after school our children can run down the street and play with the neighborhood children or roam around the country side to explore! If you want to keep your children fit, active and social out of school activities are a safe and fun way to go. (As long as parents participate) A healthy body helps a grow a strong, creative and inquisitve brain.

    I always tell my children. “your studies come first but as long as you do well in school you can participate in after school activites”

    Both my kids do very well in school. I also find that most of the children I know that participate in afterschool activities also do very well in school. It is really unfair to put the blame on parents who are trying to encourage and nurture their children into being well rounded individuals.

    And you guessed it- AR reading is still my number 1 pet peeve!

    I have decided instead of dreading the AR test scores, this year, I will encourage my children to pleasure read -if they meet their AR goal- GREAT. If not, well at least I have the satification of knowing they read 1 good book at a time!


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