Parents are encouraged to read bedtime stories to their children after research released on Tuesday showed only 23 per cent of New South Wales parents read to their children on a daily basis.
According to the Optus literacy study, stress of daily life interferes with bedtime stories with one in two parents of primary school aged children reading to their children less than once a week.
This comes as making dinner, housework, work commitments and exhaustion proved to take up almost half of parents’ time after work hours.
In2ition Achievement Centre literacy specialist Marcelle Rutter said there was a big difference in children’s reading ability and enjoyment of books at school for those who were read to at home.
“This sort of information has been circulating for a while,” Ms Rutter said.
“Reading, discussing and engaging children in books definitely sets them up for school. Reading to them at a young age sets them up for enjoyment of novels and comprehension later in life and the skills of those who have been exposed are far better.
“I can tell you that there is a big difference…I have students who come to me who have never picked up a book and some don’t even have books in their house.”
Mr Rutter said for parents who were time poor there were a number of options, including audio books and digital applications and devices which kept children engaged in interactive reading.
“Listening to audio books can be great for time poor parents,” she said.
“There are loads of interactive apps which have helpful voice-overs and allow children to click on words to find out what they mean.
“The whole aspect of reading is its social ability to create a comfortable family environment where children listen to mum or dad read, evoking nice feelings towards reading as a safe, enjoyable thing to do.”
The research also found, despite struggling to find time to read to their children, 85 per cent of parents wanted their children to read more and many offered rewards and incentives such as sweets and money to encourage them to read.
The Smith Family and Optus banded together with the national Student2student Mobile Literacy Program, aimed at improving students reading and confidence, and found children’s participation in reading improved by 86 per cent by the end of the 18 weeks.
The program matched eight to 12 year olds with reading buddies at least two years older who were trained to improve literacy skills in their peers.
The Smith Family general manager for NSW/ACT Theresa Collignon said a high proportion of disadvantaged students in Australia were not achieving minimum standards in reading, writing and spelling.
“The literacy foundations built by children during their primary and early secondary years are crucial to their ability to do well at school…which is why this program is so crucial,” Ms Collignon said.
“Research identifies a clear link between the development of good literacy and numeracy skills at an early age and higher levels of educational achievement, employability, higher earnings and social participation in life.
“We have been able to expand this program nationally to help more children with literacy problems improve their prospects.”
Through the study 86 per cent of children admitted they still preferred to read a traditional book rather then read a story on a digital device.