Decline By Nine: Why Kids Stop Reading for Fun by Age 9 (and What to Do About It)

A national reading survey by Scholastic reveals something they’re calling the “decline by nine.” Michelle Woo looks into this pattern:

According to the report, the percentage of kids defined as frequent readers—those who read books for fun five to seven days a week— drops from 57% among 8-year-olds to 35% among 9-year-olds. Between ages eight and nine, the number of kids who say they love reading plummets from 40% to 28%. What happens during this year, and more importantly, what can parents do to keep their young readers reading, willingly?

Lauren Tarshis, publisher of Scholastic Classroom Magazines and the author of the bestselling I Survived children’s series, tells me that kids become increasingly autonomous starting in the third grade. And there’s now so much competing for their attention—schedules become packed with sports, extracurricular activities, social events and homework. Also during this time, they no longer have adults reading to them or curating books to fit their growing tastes and interests. “As kids get older, fewer see reading as something to do just for fun, and more as something that’s expected of them,” Tarshis says. “The joy begins to fade, and it becomes a chore.” (Third grade also just happens to be the age when most schools begin standardized testing for reading, though the study doesn’t point to this fact.)

As a parent, it can be hard to see your kids’ love for reading dwindle, especially if it was something that once gave them joy. But you can—and should—step in. Here are some ways to prevent the decline.

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