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Sex advice role for teen magazines

TEEN magazines and novels have a key part to play in the Government's plans to reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy, according to reports on young people's reading habits published this week.

Roehampton Institute has produced follow-up studies on young people from ethnic minorities and those with special needs to add to research compiled for Young People's Reading at the End of the Century, its 1996 landmark survey on the reading habits of 9,000 five to 16-year-olds.

Ethnic-minority girls rely more on what they read for information about sex, pregnancy and changes in their bodies than young people generally, the study shows. Teen magazines are the most important source, followed by health education leaflets and information books.

Asian girls are voracious users of libraries for this material, suggesting that some reading material is not acceptable at home and that issues such as pregnancy, contraception and sexually transmitted diseases may not be discussed by their families.

The study also shows that the gap between girls' and boys' enthusiasm for reading is narrower in ethnic-minority communities, and fathers in these communities are more likely to be involved in their children's reading. "It seems important to ensure boys and girls of all ages, backgrounds and abilities have easy and confidential access to the things they want to read," says the report.

A parallel report on young people with special educational needs shows that they buy and borrow significantly fewer books than their peers and that their parents are less likely to buy them books. They are dependent on adult professionals' choice of books for them. It emerges strongly that young people with special needs would like to choose their own books, but with more help.

'Young People's Reading at the End of the Century: Focus on Ethnic Minority Pupils' is available at pound;8 (student quality) or pound;16 (professional quality) from the National Centre for Research in Children's Literature, Roehampton Institute London, Digby Stuart College, Roehampton Lane, London SW15 5PH. 'Young People's Reading at the End of the Century: Focus on Pupils with Special Educational Needs' costs pound;6 or pound;12 from the same address.

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