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Children read longer books of greater difficulty during lockdown periods last year, and reported that reading made them feel better while isolated from the wider world, according to new research.

The annual What Kids Are Reading report from Renaissance Learning, which studies the reading habits of more than one million pupils in the UK and Ireland, found that though number of books read dropped 17% in the year to July 2020, compared with the previous year, children read more during lockdowns and school closures, with primary school children and those in year seven reading more demanding texts in particular.

The study was published alongside new data from the National Literacy Trust. Analysing responses from more than 58,000 pupils aged nine to 18, the NLT found that 47.8% of children said they enjoyed reading at the beginning of 2020. But, in a second survey of more than 4,000 children in May and June, during the spring lockdown, 55.9% said they enjoyed reading either very much or quite a lot.

Dr Christina Clark and Irene Picton said in the report: “In 2020, we recorded the lowest percentage of self-reported reading enjoyment since 2005 when we began asking the question in our surveys. Ordinarily, this would have led to a call for the sector to rally and help improve this sad state of affairs. However, shortly after this survey closed came the first wave of school closures in response to the pandemic, and our subsequent survey began to tell a different story: one of increased reading engagement during this first spring lockdown.”

Three in five children said reading made them feel better during lockdown, while 32% said reading has helped them when they felt sad about not being able to see friends or family, explained the report.

“Having more time to read and the increased autonomy of book choice, along with the opportunity to read for its own sake, where key reasons why more young people are enjoying being immersed in stories,” said Clark.

The most popular book for secondary pupils during the year was Rick Riordan’s fantasy adventure novel The House of Hades, while primary pupils preferred Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, which tackles police brutality in the US, was the fourth most popular book for secondary school children.

Source: The Guardian