Parents who model their own love of reading and engage in their children’s reading—who read aloud to them, take them to the library, and talk about favorite books—help their children grow into lifelong readers. What’s more, when parents read aloud to their children during the preschool years, they are more likely to raise children who become avid readers (Scholastic, 2013).

The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) recommends that pediatricians encourage parents to read aloud daily, beginning at birth (2014). Dr. Pamela High, lead author of the AAP policy, explains the aim: “… those 15-20 minutes spent reading with a child can be the best part of the day. It’s a joyful way to build child-parent relationships and set a child on the pathway to developing early literacy skills.”

“Reading aloud to your child is a commercial for reading. When you read aloud, you're whetting a child's appetite for reading. … A child who has been read to will want to learn to read herself. She will want to do what she sees her parents doing. But if a child never sees anyone pick up a book, she isn't going to have that desire” (Trelease, 2013). Plus, “children who have an enthusiastic reader as a role model may stay determined to learn to read, even when facing challenges, rather than becoming easily discouraged” (Cunningham & Zibulsky, 2013).

The read aloud is the gift that keeps on giving—leading to student gains in vocabulary (Beck & McKeown, 2001), comprehension strategies and story schema (Van den Broek, 2001), and concept development (Pinnell & Fountas, 2011).

American Academy of Pediatricians. (2014). Policy Statement. Beck, I. & McKeown, M. (2001). “Text talk: Capturing the benefits of read-aloud experiences for young children.” The Reading Teacher. Vol. 55, No. 1.
Cunningham, A. & Zibulsky, J. (2013). Book smart: How to develop and support successful, motivated readers. New York: Oxford University Press.
Pinnell, G. S. & Fountas, I. (2011). Literacy beginnings: A prekindergarten handbook. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Scholastic Kids & Family Reading ReportTM: Fourth Edition commissioned by Scholastic and conducted by YouGov; 2013.
Trelease, J. (2013). The read-aloud handbook (7th edition). New York: Penguin Books.

Children raised in homes with more than 500 books spent three years longer in school than children raised in homes with only a few books. Growing up in a household with 500 or more books is “as great an advantage as having university-educated rather than unschooled parents, and twice the advantage of having a professional rather than an unskilled father” (Evans et al., 2010).

Research suggests that children whose parents have lots of books are nearly 20 percent more likely to finish college. Indeed, as a predictor of college graduation, books in the home trump the education of the parents. Even a child who hails from a home with 25 books will, on average, complete two more years of school than would a child from a home without any books at all (Evans et al., 2010).

Regardless of how many books the family already has, each addition to a home library helps the children get a little farther in school. The gains are larger for more modest families. Children from families with less gain more in the first few years of school. Moreover, having books in the home has a greater impact on children from the least educated families than children of the university-educated elite (Evans et al., 2010).

In general, the books help establish a reading or “scholarly” culture in the home—one that persists from generation to generation within families, largely independent of education and class—creating a “taste for books” and promoting the skills and knowledge that foster both literacy and numeracy and, thus, lead to lifelong academic advantages (Evans et al., 2010).

Evans, M., Kelley, J., Sikorac, J., & Treimand, D. (2010). “Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations.” Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 28, 171–197.

The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading ReportTM: Fifth Edition confirms what we’ve long known: independent reading, both at school and at home, builds successful readers. What’s more, the research shows that giving students a say in what they read is key. And from our experience, we also know that frequent reading creates proficient readers who thrive personally and academically.

The report adds to the abundant data we’ve had for years that demonstrates that in-school independent reading centered on reading books for fun creates kids who love to read. Seventy-eight percent of children ages 12-17 who are frequent readers (defined by the report as kids who read books for fun five to seven times a week) reported that they have the opportunity to read a book of choice independently during the school day. Only 24 percent of infrequent readers—those reading for fun less than one day a week—say the same. In addition, 91 percent of children ages 6-17 agree that “my favorite books are the ones that I have picked out myself.” It’s clear that independent reading programs that invite reading choice and promote reading pleasure give rise to kids who not only read but also, more important, kids who want to read.

Some of the first research linking choice to reading pleasure dates back to the 1970s in a report titled They Love to Read by Dr. John W. Studebaker. The report showed that among kids who chose their own books through Scholastic Book Clubs, the majority read those books from cover-to-cover. Parents reported that their children were “much more likely” to finish reading books they bought for themselves in contrast to books selected for them.

Readers are most engaged with their reading—and derive the most pleasure from it—when they are able to follow their own reading interests and shape their own reading lives, a key finding also of the research conducted by Jeff Wilhelm and Michael Smith, documented in their book Reading Unbound.

Scholastic Kids & Family Reading ReportTM: Fifth Edition commissioned by Scholastic and conducted by YouGov; 2014.
Studebaker, J. (1977). The Love to read: Report on a study of paperback book clubs in classrooms of five cities. New York: Scholastic.
Van den Broek, P., Lynch, J., Nashlund, J., Levers-Landis, C., Verduin, K. (2003). The development of comprehension of main ideas in narratives: Evidence from the selection of titles. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95, 707-718.
Wilhelm, J. & Smith, M. (2013). Reading unbound: Why kids need to read what they want—and why we should let them. New York: Scholastic.

Reading volume is defined as the combination of time students spend reading plus the number of words they actually consume as they read (Allington, 2012). This combination affects everything from students’ cognitive abilities to their vocabulary development and knowledge of the world (Cunningham & Zibulsky, 2013).

In “one of the most extensive studies of independent reading yet conducted,” Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding (1988) traced reading growth to independent reading and reading volume. They found that the amount of time students spent in independent reading outside of school was the best predictor of reading achievement. The chart below reveals the results of the study. Note the number of words students consume during independent reading—and the enormous differences in reading volume between higher- and lower-achieving students. Viewed across a year, we can immediately see the striking differences in reading achievement between the high-volume readers, who read more than an hour outside of school, and those students who avoid reading.

Keep in mind that children spend 900 hours a year in school versus 7,800 hours outside school (Trelease, 2013). Ideally, students are reading both in school and out. The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading ReportTM: Fifth Edition found that children are more likely to read outside of school if they are reading a book for fun in school. One influences the other, creating a field force of reading energy!

Allington, D. (2012). What really matters for struggling readers: Designing research-based programs. Boston: Pearson.
Anderson, R. C., Wilson P.T., Fielding, L.G. (1988). “Growth in reading and how children spend their time outside of school.” Reading Research Quarterly, No.23, pp.285-303.
Cunningham, A. & Zibulsky, J. (2013). Book smart: How to develop and support successful, motivated readers. New York: Oxford University Press.
Scholastic Kids & Family Reading ReportTM: Fifth Edition commissioned by Scholastic and conducted by YouGov; 2014.
Trelease, J. (2013). The read-aloud handbook (Seventh edition). New York: Penguin Group.

Variation in Amount of Independent Reading

Ralph Lauren Corporation

The Ralph Lauren Children’s Literacy Program supports children’s literacy and education worldwide. Twenty-five percent (25%) of the purchase price of the Ralph Lauren Literacy Capsule collection (e.g. journals, tote bags and T-shirts for the whole family) will be donated to Reach Out and Read (U.S.A. only) to provide books from the Scholastic Possible Fund to children in need.

Pam Allyn & LitWorld

Pam Allyn is a world-renowned children’s rights and literacy advocate, author, and motivational speaker, and the Founder and Executive Director of LitWorld, a literacy organization committed to creating positive change in the world. She is also a passionate ambassador for Scholastic’s Open a World of Possible.


Global music icon Usher joined Scholastic for the launch of “Open a World of Possible”, hosting “BIGGERTHAN Words,” a live webcast about how students can open a world of possible and create lasting change through reading.

Taylor Swift

In conjunction with the release of her best-selling CDs in 2010, 2012, and 2014, music superstar Taylor Swift joined Scholastic to talk about the importance of reading, writing, and imagination in three separate, widely-viewed webcasts.


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