Study to investigate ways to children to keep reading for fun

November 17, 2015

A major research study at Murdoch University will investigate the reasons why nearly 40 per cent of children stop reading for recreation and identify ways that parents and teachers can help.

Dr Margaret Merga will survey children in Years 4 and 6 from 23 Western Australian schools to examine their attitudes towards reading and the social factors influencing their opinions.

“I’m very interested in discovering ways that parents and teachers can encourage children to continue to read after they have passed the point of reading with competence,” Dr Merga said.

“We already know that when adults stop encouraging children to read, they no longer think it is important. However there is a fine balance between pushing kids and encouraging them to read.

Dr Merga will survey children from a diverse collection of schools, to create a representative sample inclusive of public and private education, coeducational and single sex, regional and urban and from a range of socio-economic areas.

This project will build on Dr Merga’s previous work in aliteracy in adolescents, a phenomenon where students who are able to read are choosing not to pick up a book for recreation.

“Teenagers who read novels for fun are becoming an increasingly rare sight and we have established there is a number of reasons why this is the case,” Dr Merga said.

“Some adolescents do not have the skills or concentration to read, but others are just choosing to spend their spare time doing other activities.

“Their attitudes towards books are more influenced by their friends than their peer group. They are also time-conscious like adults are; they sometimes struggle to make good book choices and they are understandably reluctant to persist with a book that they don’t enjoy.”

Dr Merga said that her new work was focused on taking a few steps back from the point where adolescents are aliterate, to find ways for parents and teachers to prevent children from ceasing to read in the first place.

“Reading for pleasure is an enormously important skill which has been shown to increase academic performance and improve career prospects,” Dr Merga said.

“Parents and teachers have an incredibly important role in fostering a love of reading, through talking about books with children and finding books that spark each child’s imagination.”

The study has been funded by the Ian Potter Foundation until 2017.

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