What is causing our children to “turn off”?

Parents who are already struggling with the cost of living and stress at work can add another uphill battle to this list as Australian children stop reading in their best years of school.

An exclusive survey by consumer data company Fonto found that 98% of parents believe that reading is very or very important for their children’s writing and spelling skills, but almost half of school-age children are reported to enjoy reading books only slightly ( 46% ), and every fifth teenager aged 14-18 does not like to read at all.

Australian Catholic University Professor of Educational Psychology John Munro called the blackout “a real problem” and said the phenomenon was more pronounced in boys.

“Research in this area shows that around 5th or 6th grade…many boys stop reading,” he said. “When you look at NAPLAN data, girls, especially older than grade 3, outperform boys in reading comprehension.

“The more you read, the better you read. When you need to read to learn—in 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th grade—students who read better will be better at accumulating knowledge.

“There are real consequences beyond ‘enjoying reading’.

Professor Munro said that as children move from “carer/child” to the secondary phase of peer groups, boys especially need to see their fathers and other male role models read. He recommended that parents use “scaffolding” to help children think about what they are reading before starting.

“What can happen… what can this person do, what could be the problem. Ask the student to put a part of themselves into the text – this is what they do when they play video games.

MultiLit Research’s strategy director Dr. Jennifer Buckingham said the shutdown is now worse than it used to be “because there’s a lot of competition over how kids … spend their free time.”

“Part of this is due to the interest and attraction of using phones and games, but there is also an amplifying effect,” said Dr. Buckingham.

“When kids aren’t paying constant attention to something, like reading a book, their reading endurance is reduced, so it’s much easier to get distracted.”

Both Professor Munro and Dr. Buckingham strongly recommended not to refuse to read together, including in adolescence.

“Don’t think, ‘OK, they can read – job done,'” said Dr. Buckingham.

“Read them the first five or ten minutes and then say, ‘OK, I’d really like you to at least finish this chapter.’ Then the next night… ask them to tell you what happened.”

Fonto’s poll results came when Kids News opened registration for the Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee, a free online competition that aims to improve spelling skills in grades 3-8. Both experts said the spelling was “really important”.

“Spelling has to be purposeful,” Professor Munro said. “Spelling teaches letter patterns that connect meaning, spelling increases vocabulary and really has to do with the accuracy with which people pronounce words.”

Dr. Buckingham said that if a student knows how to spell a word, they are more likely to remember and use it.

“This is especially important for writing,” she said. “Writing is very difficult when students don’t know how to write correctly.”

Do your kids have what it takes to “be” the best? Test your skills with our Spell Check Poster

Fonto’s survey of more than 1,500 parents also shows that healthy sales in the children’s book category due to Covid do not tell the whole story: 41% of children aged 14-18 rarely or never read the books chosen for them. and 36% of cents rarely or never even read the books they have chosen for themselves.

Indeed, 56% of parents surveyed said that Covid had affected their children’s literacy and learning.

Working mom Renee Nowitarger said her 11-year-old son Zach “used to be a big reader” but “turned off last year.”

“At the moment Zack doesn’t read at all — it’s a constant struggle trying to get him to read,” she said. “I bought him a Kindle, but it didn’t work either…he never used it.”

Since Zach will be starting high school next year, Ms Nowytarger’s “greatest fear is that he will get lost in the system.”

“He’s going to a bigger school where you won’t have the same teacher day in and day out, so they’ll lose track of where he really is,” she said, adding that the prime minister’s spelling bee was ” great idea”.

“It gives them support, it gives them interest in it,” she said.

Registration for the Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee is open MR.


The Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee is a free online competition for students in grades 3-8.

Students compete in their school in three levels of competition: green for grades 3-4, orange for grades 5-6, and red for grades 7-8.

They receive 30 randomly selected words from their competitive level and have 25 seconds to enter each answer. The students with the most correct words in the shortest time advance to the final.

Teachers can register their students from July 25th and school tours will start on August 15th. The state/territory finals will take place on September 1-2, and the national final on September 8.

Prizes for the National Champion in each age group include a trip to Canberra to meet the Prime Minister and an iPad, as well as a $1,000 voucher for their school.

Visit kidsnews.com.au For more information