Reading stories ought to be one of the great pleasures of childhood. But a study from the National Foundation for Educational Research suggests almost a quarter of children have been turned off reading by the age of eight.
Twenty-four per cent of the 5,299 pupils surveyed said that they had no interest in books and 22 per cent never read for fun.
But the study also has some reassuring findings for those who worry about falling literacy standards. It shows that by 1995 - the year that the research was carried out - the reading scores of eight-year-olds had returned to their 1987 level after dipping in 1991.
Between two-thirds and three-quarters of children enjoy reading, two-thirds relish the challenge of using a library to find things out, and an unexpectedly high proportion (69 per cent) like reading poems.