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World Book Day: charity provides picture of reading during the pandemic

A YEAR since the UK’s first lockdown, and with schools about to re-open, research collated for World Book Day shows that many children and parents embraced reading at the beginning of the pandemic, with huge benefits for their wellbeing and development.

However, according to the latest research, one year into the pandemic reading has decreased slightly this year – meaning some children are not experiencing the life-chance improving benefits of reading for pleasure.

In addition, access to books remains a serious issue, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. In the context of Covid-19 – with the educational gap widening – the evidence collated for World Book Day highlights the need for support.

The World Book Day charity has brought together the UK’s leading reading and educational charities – BookTrust, CLPE, National Literacy Trust, and The Reading Agency – and the leading children’s publisher Egmont, as well as Nielsen Books, in a collaboration providing insights into the impact of the last year on children’s reading.

For the first time, the combined data brings together the perspectives of families, teachers and young people. The research found:

  • Many children embraced reading at the beginning of the pandemic. This is supported by evidence from BookTrust, National Literacy Trust and The Reading Agency. The majority looked online for reading inspiration, with YouTube (45%), social media (28%) and friends (31%) cited as a key source of ideas.

  • Books have provided a valuable resource to support children’s wellbeing. Young people reported that it helped them relax (40%) and made them feel happy (35%). As missing friends became a common concern for young people, 17% also said they used it as a way to stay connected. 82% of teachers have found ways of reading aloud to their classes during the pandemic because it provided an emotional support as well as developing literacy skills.

  • Parents read more with children and encouraged children to read more too. Whilst engaging children with their online lessons often became a battleground for families, parents who read aloud to their children every day noticed an improvement in wellbeing, behaviour, family bonds and attainment with schoolwork (even when home educating). This learning by stealth helped parents feel they could make a positive difference.

But while the pandemic has seen such positives, it has also highlighted major concerns:

  • Access to books remains a serious issue, particularly among disadvantaged children and families. The charities’ research showed that a quarter of primary schools raised concern that access to books had become a barrier to reading for pleasure and overall literacy levels. Despite many schools implementing quarantine schemes and delivery services, 40% of primary-level children were unable to take books home. Amongst schools offering borrowing schemes, some spoke about having ‘run out’ of stock by January 21.

  • One year into the pandemic reading has decreased slightly this year, according to the latest research from Nielsen Books.

The latest research for the National Literacy Trust shows the positive impact World Book Day has had during the pandemic: When asked in early 2021 what they had done differently as a result of World Book Day 2020, 3 in 5 primary children (62%) said that they had read more books as a result.

Over half (54%) had talked more about books with family and friends. A third (34%) had also read more books with family and friends.

  • For the latest on this week’s World Book Day activities, including the Show Your Story Shares mass participation campaign, visit:
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