A third of teachers believe boys see reading as a “punishment”, a survey revealing teachers’ concerns over falling levels of reading in secondary schools has found.
The research found that seven out of ten secondary school teachers (71 per cent) think there has been an increase in “reluctant readers” over the past three years.
Eight out of ten (82 per cent) teachers also say that the popularity of social media among teenagers has had a hugely negative effect on students’ willingness to read outside school.
“Reluctant readers” are defined as those who are capable of reading but who, for a variety of reasons, need to be cajoled into picking up a book.
The findings show that teachers think that a third (33 per cent) of boys and 15 per cent of girls consider being asked to read as a “punishment”. Less than a fifth of teachers (17 per cent) think boys see reading as something that’s “fun”, and over half (53 per cent) say boys will always choose to read an easy book over a harder one.
The report also suggests that there a growing number of girls who are becoming reluctant readers too. Teachers think just a quarter (24 per cent) of their female students now see reading as an enjoyable pastime.
Nine in ten (89 per cent) teachers also think it is essential for secondary school students to learn to read for enjoyment. Yet almost the same number think that social media distracts children from reading or getting into books.
Teachers are universally sceptical that their teenage students are doing much reading at all outside of school hours. Nine in ten (89 per cent) teachers think that most children read for less than 15 minutes daily outside of school. Four in ten (40 per cent) believe the children they teach spend no time at all reading.
Two thirds (65 per cent) of the 539 secondary school teachers interviewed by YouGov say that reading is a strategic priority for their school, but there is less consensus over responsibility for delivery. Almost half (47 per cent) of respondents say responsibility for reading doesn’t automatically rest with English departments in their school, while similar numbers (44 per cent) say it does.
Crispin Chatterton, director of education at GL Assessment, which commissioned the research, said: “Our study highlights that teachers recognise that reading reluctance is a growing problem and demonstrates the importance of having access to data that can quickly flag those students whose progress is being affected.”
Professor Jessie Ricketts from the department of psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, says: “The evidence shows that reading behaviour (how much reading is going on) feeds into attainment and vice versa, such that there is a kind of virtuous circle with those who read often reading well.
“However, you need a certain level of attainment to enter into this virtuous circle. Proficiency always comes first, and we know that many secondary students do not have the kind of proficiency that they need to enjoy and benefit from reading.
“The jump from primary to secondary school also means teachers expect students to have much higher levels of comprehension to cope with the curriculum – but this doesn’t always transpire. When helping students who need support with their reading, it is important to identify the nature of their reading needs, for instance it might be to do with reading words, or comprehension, or both. This will always be crucial for ensuring that any help and interventions are effective.”
For more information and advice about identifying and supporting reluctant readers go to gl-assessment.co.uk/reluctant-readers