Wednesday 8 May 2024

‘Decline By Nine’: Reading For Fun Plummets At Age Nine, Data Shows

 Reading for fun sharply declines around age nine in an alarming trend that coincides with years of learning loss since the pandemic, data shows.

Only 35% of nine-year-olds are reading at least five days a week compared to 57% of eight-year-olds, according to the latest Scholastic survey on the issue.

“The number of kids who say they love reading drops significantly from 40% among eight-year-olds to 28% among nine-year-olds,” the Scholastic report notes.

The trend, dubbed the “decline by nine” has concerned researchers, who note that reaching reading proficiency by third grade is a good predictor of academic success.

Sales of books aimed at children eight through 12 were down 10% in the first three quarters of last year after dropping 16% in 2022, according to data from Circana BookScan.

Meanwhile, books aimed at other age groups are not underperforming compared to 2019, the data shows.

Smartphones and more screen time could also be part of the problem, experts say, but the issue seems to go deeper than just screens.

One of the main drivers of the “decline by nine” appears to be the pandemic’s school disruptions.

“I don’t think it’s possible to overstate how disruptive the pandemic was on middle grade readers,” said Circana’s Kristen McLean, an analyst in the children’s book industry.

“They lost most of their main sources of discovery, including bookstores, teachers, librarians, and seeing what their friends were reading, and at the same time they spent lots of time on screens of all sizes,” McLean said.

Another analyst warned Slate that children who are not encouraged to take an interest in books at this crucial age will not want to read books as adults.

Additionally, teachers increasingly focus less on encouraging young students to read entire books and more on assigning them excerpts, taking a lot of the fun out of reading, children’s book author Joanne O’Sullivan told Slate.

The disinterest in reading for fun starting around third grade dovetails with disastrous learning loss in school over the last few years.

Last year, one study showed that students would need an average of four and a half months of extra math instruction and just over four months of additional reading instruction to catch up to the typical pre-COVID student.

Parents and teachers hoped kids would learn more quickly to catch up, but those hopes have not been realized. The same study showed fourth through eighth graders making even slower academic progress in reading and math in 2022 than before the pandemic.

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