Children turn their backs on reading classic novels in favour of glossy magazines


Last updated at 00:01 27 March 2008

Parents may want classic literature to top their children's reading lists but a new survey has shown that young teens have rather different ideas.

A poll revealing what children really read has found 11- to 14-year-olds would far rather pore over the magazines Heat and Bliss.

Other top-rated reads include song lyrics online, their own internet diary "blogs" and film scripts.

Parents attempt to steer them towards more heavyweight choices, with nearly half of youngsters polled admitting they have been told off by an adult for enjoying something that is not "proper" reading.

But the researchers said parents need to realise that much of children's reading is now online.

Four of the top ten favourite "reads" for teenagers require reading the internet and include guides to cheating in computer games, although youngsters betrayed ambivalent attitudes to the hugely popular networking site Facebook, which came in the bottom ten.

Meanwhile the rise of celebrity culture is seen in the top choices, Heat and Bliss.

However, the researchers conclude teens are reaching a "tolerance tipping point" in their consumption of celebrity magazines.

While the likes of Heat come out on top, the fourth least-loved text was "reading about skinny celebrities in magazines".

The respondents were enthusiastic about some literature, including Anne Frank's Diary and books by Anthony Horowitz, who created the 14-year-old spy Alex Rider.

The Harry Potter books divided youngsters polled, with the series appearing in both the best and least loved lists.

Sixty years after it was written, Anne Frank's Diary came just one place behind JK Rowling's famous wizard books in the best-loved list.

The Read Up, Fed Up survey of 1,340 children aged 11 to 14, was compiled by the National Year of Reading campaign and networking site Piczo.

It found that 45 per cent of teenagers have been told off by an adult over their choice of reading material.

But this "narrow definition" of reading is "unwittingly turning off the next generation of avid readers", it claimed.

Honor Wilson-Fletcher, director of the National Year of Reading insisted: "We should all appreciate that many young people are reading creatively - widely yet selectively.

"Teens are challenging our traditional definitions of reading as being all about books but reading enthusiastically nonetheless."

Putting the best face on the findings, Schools Minister Jim Knight added: "It is vital that young people have the opportunity to read widely.

"It is wonderful that 80 per cent of the teenagers surveyed write their own stories and keep up-to-date with current affairs by using sites like BBC Online."

Children's choices of reading material will deepen concern over "dumbing down" following a damning world league table which exposed falling reading standards among England's 10-year-olds.

In the space of five years, UK schools fell from third to 19th in an international table of reading achievement.

The study also found a "significant" decline in the number of England's pupils with a positive attitude to reading and a "small but significant" increase in the numbers with negative attitudes.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls sparked a row after insisting parents must take some blame for the trend - including middle-class mums and dads who allow their children to spend too much time playing computer and video games, watching TV and talking on mobile phones.

He called on all parents to spend at least ten minutes a day reading with their children so it is as much part of bedtime routines as bathing.

Most-loved reads

1) Heat

2=) Bliss,

Song lyrics online

4=) Computer game cheats online,

Self-made online blog or fan fiction

6=) The Harry Potter series,

Anne Frank's Diary

8) Film scripts

9=) Books by Anthony Horowitz,

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

11=) BBC Online,

Books by Louise Rennison

Least-liked reads

1) Homework

2) Shakespeare

3) Books of more than 100 pages

4) Articles about skinny celebs in magazines

5) Books which are on the syllabus

6) Encyclopaedias and dictionaries

7) The Beano

8=) Music scores,

The Harry Potter series,

Maps and directions,

11) Facebook

12=) Financial Times,

Anything in another language

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