The survey, of 1,067 primary children involved in the Volunteer Reading Help (VRH) scheme, found low self-esteem was a factor for nearly 70 per cent of poor readers. Half needed help under the special educational needs code of practice, while lack of parental support was experienced by 40 per cent of the children.
VRH is a national charity which provides trained volunteers to work with pupils in diffuculty on a one-to-one basis in the classroom.
Its survey findings are based on the judgments of 488 classroom teachers in 197 schools, who were asked to rate their pupils' progress on a five-point scale.
There was no reference to objective measures of progress, such as baseline assessments and test results.
Teachers were asked to identify the underlying reasons for poor reading, and named a range of factors including low self-esteem (68 per cent), under-achieving (65 per cent), and special needs (40 per cent).
Low ability (43 per cent), lack of parental support (40 per cent) and a poor attitude (39 per cent) were also considered significant. Teachers reported the vast majority of the surveyed pupils as showing "moderate" or "significant" progress.
One teacher, from Bolton, noted: "All of the children have benefited from the experience of the programme. Not only have they had extra reading practice, but they have also had quality time with another adult. Self-esteem is so important to these children."
Anne Weitzman, the charity's chairwoman, said: "Reading ability is fundamental to the long-term development of a child. Reading skills unlock the imagination and open the door to career opportunities and life chances. By working in partnership with the schools and individual children, VRH is tackling the issue of low levels of confidence, in an environment conducive to boosting levels of interest, enjoyment and self-esteem."
The survey covered VRH branches in Bolton, East Dorset, Leeds, West Dorset, Bristol, East Surrey, Reading and Oxford.