Fewer children read for pleasure, report finds

A new report finds that fewer Ontario children say they read purely for pleasure.
Children need to read for pleasure and not just to study, the report says. (iStock)

report published Monday finds that fewer Ontario children are reading for pleasure.

The report, published by research group People for Education, shows the number of Ontario Grade 3 students who say they like to read dropped from 75 per cent in 1998-99 to 50 per cent in 2010-11.

The number of students in Grade 6 who said they enjoy reading fell from 65 per cent to 50 per cent in the same period, according to the study.

The data comes from surveys of more than 240,000 Grade 3 and Grade 6 students from the province’s Education Quality and Accountability Office and research from the OED.

The study reports that a focus on test scores and on the "mechanics" of literacy have had an effect on students’ attitudes about reading.

Patsy Aldana with the National Reading Campaign said the report’s findings point to a worrying trend.

"The pressure they're under to do well on tests has diverted the schools away from teaching reading as something that’s a great joy," she said.

The report also says children need to embrace reading for reasons other than studying.

"Regardless of form, reading for the joy of it, for its capacity to broaden our horizons, use our imaginations, think creatively, understand ourselves and others better … must be a vital component of what we encourage in our schools," the report says.

The report points to a reduction in the number of teacher-librarians as a one reason for the decline.

In the school year starting in 2010, only 56 per cent of Ontario elementary schools had a teacher-librarian (with 80 per cent of those working part time), a decline from 76 per cent in 1998-99.