Reading socialisation of children in the Family (Germany)

Representative longitudinal study by Stiftung Lesen, commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Families, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, proves head start for children who enjoy reading.

The family home sets children on the right track regarding reading development. A representative longitudinal study conducted by Stiftung Lesen (Reading Foundation) – ‘Lesesozialisation von Kindern in der Familie’ – assesses the role of elementary reading promotion and media practice in families against the background of structural changes in the families, new communication technologies and altered habits of media use.

The current study once again proves that children who enjoy reading are successful at school. However, the study also shows that an ‘enjoyment of reading’ is regarded as an educational objective by few parents only. ‘Lessons are easy to follow’ say children from many different homes who have only one thing in common: they love reading. Children from socially deprived families are even more confident in this respect than their better situated peers: 45% of the enthusiastic readers here emphasise that lessons present no problem for them while only 39% of the eager young readers from socially well-off families say so.

Stiftung Lesen interviewed 3,000 children aged nine to thirteen as well as their parents in the framework of the largest scale survey of reading careers in two decades.  ‘Reading is fun and it opens doors for the children’s imagination to unfold but it is also better suited to compensate for the disadvantages children from socially deprived families are facing than any other means. Reading breaks the vicious circle of inheriting poor educational conditions from one generation to the next’,says Ursula von der Leyen, Federal Minister for Families, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. ‘Parents are the most important role models for their children and they influence their children’s interest in books most strongly. It is hence highly important to read to children from an early age on. Once the enjoyment of reading has been instilled, reading competence will develop all by itself. The study shows that such a head start lasts lifetime’.

According to ‘Lesesozialisation von Kindern in der Familie’, many Germans agree to this statement as never before: 84% of the parents confirmed that reading a lot is important to the development of a child. Only 55% had agreed to this statement in the earlier study conducted in 1988. An overwhelming majority have a clear concept of why reading in particular should be so important: ‘Reading promotes autonomous thinking’, 63% of the respondents declare, while only 50% confirmed this statement 20 years ago. Nowadays even three quarters of the respondents agree that reading is helpful for discerning contexts while in 1988 only two thirds of the respondents believed so.
However, this positive development is stagnating for the parents of all people. In 1988, 45% of them regarded an enjoyment of reading as an important educational goal, and this number has risen by only 3% since. ‘Scepticism’ regarding the educational objective is even perceivable for parents under the age of 30.  Only 42% of them believe it is possible to influence a child’s enjoyment of reading while still more than half of the parents older than 30 agree to this statement.