Sunday, January 13, 2008

New Data on Reading

From the National Center for Education Statistics report America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, here are some interesting (startling?) data on reading.
In 2005, 60 percent of children ages 3–5 who were not yet in kindergarten were read to daily by a family member. This rate is higher than the rate in 1993 (53 percent), but the rate fluctuated in intervening years.

In 2005, 72 percent of children whose mothers had at least a bachelor’s degree were read to every day. In comparison, daily reading occurred for 60 percent of children whose mothers had some postsecondary education, 55 percent of children whose mothers had a high school diploma or equivalent but no further education, and 41 percent of children whose mothers had less than a high school diploma.

White, non-Hispanic and Asian, non-Hispanic children were more likely to be read to every day than either Black, non-Hispanic or Hispanic children. Sixty-eight percent of White, non-Hispanic children, 66 percent of Asian, non-Hispanic children, 50 percent of Black, non-Hispanic children, and 45 percent of Hispanic children were read to every day by a family member.

Children in families with incomes of 200 percent or more of the poverty level were more likely to be read to daily by a family member (65 percent) than were children in families with incomes below the poverty level (50 percent) or those in families with incomes 100–199 percent of the poverty level (60 percent) in 2005.

Children living with two parents were more likely to be read to every day than were children living with one parent. Sixty-two percent of children in two-parent households were read to every day in 2005, compared with 53 percent of children living with one parent.

Children in the Northeast (66 percent), Midwest (62 percent), and West (61 percent) were more likely than their peers in the South (56 percent) to have been read to daily by a family member in 2005.
The fact that 40% of children in this country were NOT read to every day is very discouraging. Jen Robinson has done a great job over at the PBS Parents Expert Q&A and on her blog collecting and sharing a range of ideas for helping kids learn to enjoy reading. (You can even download a pdf file of all these great tips!) However, none of these tips will help if parents aren't reading to kids. This is an issue of race, class and education. My question to you is, how do we reach out to folks who don't read blogs, or much of anything else, and get them to understand how incredibly important reading to children is, and what a long-term impact this practice (or lack of it) makes?


  1. Thanks for sharing this report, Tricia, and for raising what I think is a very important question. I don't have much in the way of answers, but I just on my blog on my blog, too. Thanks for linking to my article, too. But mostly, thanks for making me think about this broader question.

  2. Thanks for the info, Tricia - and to Jen R. for linking to it at her blog. Reading is SO IMPORTANT. I was lucky, because when I told-asked my mother to teach me how to read, she did, and she supported my love of reading and constant need for information.

  3. This is such an important question, Tricia. I don't know a lot about other organizations, but I think Reach Out & Read does a good job getting volunteers (among other things) to read to kids in pediatricians' waiting rooms. I've had students participate and it's eye-opening for them: parents who are grateful, parents who find them pushy, kids who already find reading "boring," kids who can't get runs the gamut. But the fact that it's at the doctor's office (and the pediatrician gives the child a book as well, to take home) is a good step. Our public school publicizes the importance of reading aloud; I wonder if they could do some training as well? That might help. Obviously it will take a couple of generations or more, as kids who weren't read to become parents who don't read, and it will take a while to catch up with everyone. But there are folks making a good effort.

  4. I can not help but wonder how many of those parents can not read themselves? Then I wonder how I might feel about reading if I spent my lifetime avoiding it, fearing it - more than likely I would get a self-protective attitude like "I can't read and I am just fine" (whether they are or not is not the debate - it is their perception that matters)

    It is a little sad, actually. Some kids barely have a chance. Teachers can help, but we can not lay everything at their feet. Local Libraries have story hours, but not every day... I don't know that I know what the answer is, but I do know that since we have such trouble ensuring all children have health coverage, literacy is really only paid lip service in today's America. Maybe change is coming. I don't know...

  5. Sigh. This makes me sad.

    OK, what about hospitals/peditricians giving away more audiobooks so that if, by chance, some of the parents struggle with reading the kids could be "read to" while the kids and parents snuggled together looking at the books?

  6. Liz! I think I just had a demi-epihpany based on your post... something to do with used iPods... I will have to let my mind wander a bit. See where it goes with this idea. Anyone have any thoughts - please let me know!

    (Those of you involved in publishing - can you tell me if there would be legal issues in recording readings if one does not charge?)

  7. Man -- how great would THAT be? I don't know anything about legal ramifications, but I'm loving the possibilities....

  8. Yes - one can get a first generation iPod shuffle for less than $30 on eBay. I am afraid though that one may only use old books - since the copyright information has expired... Maybe there is a way to get permission. I will keep looking into it.

    I started thinking how to disburse them - to reach those who need them the most - the very poor, who may not even have access to pediatricians. If anyone has ideas, I would love to hear them!

    Thanks for the kind words, Liz!