Kids do better out of class if they are reading for pleasure, and not as a chore, research shows

New Kiwi research suggests children who read for pleasure are more likely to do well socially and engage in extracurricular activities too.

In other words, reading for enjoyment has social benefits for your kids.

An AUT University study called Experiences of New Zealand Children Actively Reading For Pleasure found children who were reading frequently for fun, engage more in sports, arts and other areas outside the class and home.

But parents, be careful to keep the pride at bay for their achievements that happen outside the classroom.

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Research lead Ruth Boyask​ says while children’s involvement in sporting, visual or performing arts is a predictor of more reading, those kids whose parents are most proud of their achievements in these areas, have the highest odds of enjoying reading less. It can stop progress in the books if the focus shifts.

“Children involved in outside-of-school arts activities or individually organized sports have about twice the odds of reading more frequently. They have higher odds of enjoying reading too.

“There is also a connection between reading frequency and organized team sport, an association with greater active play and even a small association between reading enjoyment and enjoying exercise.”

Meila Young is seven and loves to read.

Olivia Caldwell/Stuff

Meila Young is seven and loves to read.

It’s no secret that screen time takes time away from the books, for kids and adults. The study found screen time coincides with children who do not read as frequently.

For example, children engaged in a greater amount of passive screen time have about half the odds of frequently reading and actually enjoying it. Which makes sense if you are pulling them away from a device they would rather be on, than read a book.

Wānaka pupil Meila Young, 7, is a perfect example of an active reader equaling and active child. She voluntarily reads about two books a day, loves it and participates in out-of-class activities such as dance, rollerblading, skiing, and water-skiing in the summer.

Her mother Riki Young says she is a very social child and loves to be active, but at home you never have to tell her to get into the books, she does it herself.

Meila Young, 7, reads for the fun of it.  Her teacher Pippa Thomas, right, says she is a great reader and you never have to make her sit down with a book.

Olivia Caldwell/Stuff

Meila Young, 7, reads for the fun of it. Her teacher Pippa Thomas, right, says she is a great reader and you never have to make her sit down with a book.

“As punishment we tell her she won’t be getting any books tonight – it cuts her deep,” she said.

“She brings about 10 home with her everyday from school, plus we had to buy her a bigger bookshelf for all her books at home.

Meila’s favorite books right now are Roald Dahl’s the BFG, The Twits and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Meila said she enjoys reading because “it makes me happy”.

What about those kids who just hate reading?

Only 8% of children surveyed did not like reading.

Olivia Caldwell/Stuff

Only 8% of children surveyed did not like reading.

Well, the study found there aren’t too many of them out of the nearly 6000 children they surveyed. Only 8% of kids don’t like it.

“It is more likely they’ll feel neutral or only somewhat enjoy reading. For those who do [hate reading] there are many things that might reduce their enjoyment of reading, and many are outside the control of whānau or schools, says Boyask.

“They do however have some control over children’s experiences of reading when they are with them.

“Which is why sharing the pleasure of reading with children, encouraging children’s interests, and fostering intrinsic motivation to read is important, works.”

The study shows 73% of children frequently engage in reading for pleasure, and about half of those children enjoy reading.

The real surprise, the loud kids are just as often the bookworms.

“Children who read are not always quiet, with reading also being associated with being busy and active.”

There are still the common challenges of income and areas of living. Children who live in low income households have higher odds of not reading. As with children in households of many siblings.

Overseas studies have found similar. Reading for pleasure had benefits for children including improved school achievement, cognitive function, psychological (and some aspects of physical) well-being, and social inclusion.

Plus, societal benefits as readers engage more fully in public, social and economic life.

In other words, reading for pleasure is good for democracy because those who do it participate more and are more prepared to take responsibility for others.

Children and adults alike can benefit from the written word. Get reading, New Zealand.

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