Pupils on free school meals more likely to read on screen

‘Screen time’ is opportunity to engage pupils in reading, says charity

Screen time digital reading literacy

Children who are less frequent readers could be turned onto reading by accessing materials via phone and tablet screens, a charity has said.

According to new research from the National Literacy Trust, those with "low reading engagement" are more likely to read on screen – which the charity said could provide opportunities to “better engage them with reading in the future”.

The charity is pushing for the government to scrap VAT on digital publications, including ebooks and audiobooks, in the autumn Budget.


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The National Literacy Trust surveyed 56,905 children and young people aged 9 to 18 in the UK about their reading habits.

The research found “children with low reading engagement are more likely than those with high reading engagement to consume reading materials on screen, providing opportunities to better engage them with reading in the future”.

Twenty-four per cent of pupils on free school meals read fiction digitally, compared with 16 per cent of their peers who were not eligible for free school meals

A quarter of disengaged boy readers said that they read fiction on screen compared to just 1 in 10 of their more engaged peers (25 per cent versus 10 per cent).

The survey also found that the number of young people aged 9 to 19 reading digitally is increasing.

The research is being launched today at an event in Parliament as part of the “Axe the Reading Tax” campaign against VAT on digital publishing.

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said: “Digital reading is becoming an increasingly important part of children’s literacy lives.

“It gives children new and exciting ways to access a wide range of reading materials and is particularly effective at getting disengaged groups of children excited about reading.

“We know that when children enjoy reading, they do better at school and in life, so we fully back the campaign to Axe the Reading Tax on digital publications.”

Stephen Lotinga, chief executive of the Publishers Association, said: “This new research demonstrates the importance of digital reading as a vital part of developing reading attainment and enthusiasm in young people.

“It makes no sense that while print books are rightly VAT zero-rated, their digital equivalents are not. Digital VAT is blocking literacy at a time we should be doing everything possible to encourage reading and learning across all formats. That is why we are asking MPs to back the Axe the Reading Tax campaign and call on the chancellor to act in the autumn Budget.”

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