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Children and young people’s reading engagement in 2022

Added 07 Sep 2022 | Updated 05 Jan 23

This report is based on 70,403 responses to our Annual Literacy Survey from children and young people aged 5 to 18 in early 2022[1]. It includes findings on reading enjoyment, confidence, frequency and attitudes and explores responses by age, gender, socio-economic background and geographical region.

Our recent research showed that reading enjoyment reached a 15-year-low in early 2020, before increasing to its second highest point since we started asking this question in the first lockdown in spring 2020. However, this report shows that any gains made during the early part of the pandemic had completely eroded by 2022. This was particularly true for children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and for boys within this group.

Key findings

Reading enjoyment:

  • Fewer than 1 in 2 (47.8%) children aged 8 to 18 said they enjoyed reading in 2022. This is back on a par with those recorded in early 2020, previously the lowest level since we first asked the question in 2005.
    • Fewer children and young people who receive free school meals (FSMs) said they enjoyed reading compared with their peers who do not receive free school meals (43.8% vs. 48.8%). The percentage-point-gap between these groups has more than doubled from 2.1pp to 5pp, between 2020 and 2022.
    • Fewer boys than girls said they enjoyed reading (45.6% vs. 54.9%). Boys who received FSMs had the lowest levels of reading enjoyment, with just 2 in 5 (39.8%) enjoying reading, a drop of 6.5pp since 2020.

Reading frequency:

  • Fewer than 3 in 10 (28.0%) children and young people aged 8 to 18 said that they read daily, the second-lowest level we’ve recorded since we started asking this question.
    • Fewer children and young people who receive FSMs said they read daily compared with those who don’t (24.7% vs. 28.9%).
    • More girls than boys said they read daily (34.3% vs 26.5%). Only 1 in 5 (20.6%) of boys who receive FSMs read daily, compared with 1 in 3 (32.6%) of girls who don’t receive FSMs.

Access to reading resources:

  • Within the 8 to 18 age group, more 8 to 11-year-olds felt they received support for reading in the preceding four weeks. Almost 3 in 5 (58.3%) said their parents had encouraged them to read, compared with 1 in 4 (24.9%) of 16 to 18-year-olds.
    • More girls than boys said they talked about what they were reading with their family (41.5% vs. 33.1%). Similarly, while 2 in 5 (37.7%) of girls talked about what they were reading with friends, this decreased to 1 in 5 (20.9%) of boys.

Studies show that educational disruption in relation to the pandemic had a particularly detrimental effect on children from lower-income homes. At the same time, the government has set ambitious targets for increasing the percentage of children leaving primary schools reading at the level expected of their age. Taken together with the findings above, it is clear that efforts to encourage reading and support reading enjoyment in all children, but especially boys and those receiving FSMs, must be redoubled.

[1] 8,210 aged 5 to 8 and 62,193 aged 8 to 18.

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