Once upon a time, books such as Roald Dahl’s The Twits and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series excited children and encouraged them to read. Kids would read the so-called “childhood classics” to their heart’s content, in the classroom at school and before bedtime at home. It took a simple, adventurous and uncontrived plot to entertain them, with books like Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island becoming popular pastime reads.
How times have changed. Nowadays, most school kids would rather play on their Xbox or chat to friends on Facebook than pay attention to these once-loved tales. According to new research from Pearson, teachers have revealed that more than a third of children are likely to have turned off reading for pleasure before they reach secondary school age (11).
Of the 400 schoolteachers questioned a staggering 94 per cent reported that their pupils prefer spending time online to reading a book and 29 per cent stated that in a typical English class, more than half of their pupils show little or no interest in reading at all.
What gives? The reason for this is notoriously termed the “Twilight effect”. Yes, a string of modern-day authors and their elaborate exaggerations of reality are the types of books that children as young as 11 now want to read.
Pearson’s research, carried out to mark the release of a new set of HEROES classroom reading books, revealed that 93 per cent of teachers suggested, that boys in particular reacted better to horror and 92 per cent believe boys are into science-fiction.
“It’s worrying to think that so many young children are not being inspired to pick up a good book and get lost in a story.”
However, both boys and girls appeared to have an appetite for fantasy novels as 83 per cent of teachers stated that boys are likely to find fantasy novels engaging and 65 per cent said the same for girls.
The strong teen fantasy book market for series like Twilight, The Fallen or The Hunger Games, evidences this trend.
With this current leaning in mind, the latest HEROES books, edited by top children’s author Frank Cottrell Boyce, are designed to stimulate children’s interest in reading.
“It’s worrying to think that so many young children are not being inspired to pick up a good book and get lost in a story,” Frank said.
“According to UNESCO the biggest single indicator of whether a child is going to thrive at school and in work is whether or not they read for pleasure.”
This was also a point picked up in the research, as 97 per cent of teachers felt that parents must do more to encourage their children to read.
“Clearly we need to make sure we are providing our children with the right types of books which stimulate their interest, capture their imagination and make them turn the next page,” Frank said.
“Our hope is that the HEROES series does just that by providing exciting, shorter stories in the genres we know young people love to read so that they go on to read bolder texts,” he added.
All four of the HEROES books fall into the crime, horror and fantasy categories and are designed to hook children into reading so that they continue to read for pleasure outside of school and progress to more complex or traditional texts.
Rod Bristow, President of Pearson UK said: “Literacy is crucial to everyone’s ability to do well not just at school but also throughout life and to secure employment.
“These books are designed to help children access literature so that they fall inlove with reading for life and I hope they will engage and excite those pupils who may have been reluctant to read in the past,” he concluded.
This year’s books include the titles Demon Hunter, The Perfect Enemy, Ski Jump and Already Dead.
How do you encourage your children to read? What are their favourite books? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @FemaleFirst_UK
Shabana Adam @Shabana_FAM