One-in-six mothers and fathers admit that they never read to their children before bedtime and a third share a book no more than once a week, figures show.
A study commissioned by the publisher Pearson found that pupils aged 11 and under now spent three times as long “on screen” as they do buried in a book.
Teachers warned that over-exposure to technology was damaging children’s attention spans – making it harder for them to meet the demands of secondary education.
The comments come amid continuing concerns over children’s attitudes towards reading in school and the home.
Research published this summer found that many young people refused to pick up a book outside school for fear they would be labelled a “geek” in front of friends.
Claire Tomalin, the acclaimed biographer, said many pupils had such poor attention spans that they were unable to access books by Charles Dickins such as Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities.
According to figures, the number of pupils taking a GCSE in English literature has dropped by 15 per cent in the last five years – dipping below 470,000 for the first time this summer.
Rod Bristow, President, Pearson, said: “Study after study has shown that reading for pleasure is a key indicator of future success for children, but demands on children’s attention and the difficulty of inspiring reluctant readers mean many are missing out.”
Today’s research was based on a survey of 400 English teachers and 2,000 parents with children aged two to 11.
The study found that more than one-in-six mothers and fathers admitted that they never read a bedtime story to their children. Thirty per cent said they read no more than once a week.
Children are also spending three times as long in front of the TV, internet or games consoles as they do reading in the home, it was revealed. Parents reported that the average child spent 90 minutes watching television, 42 minutes playing games and almost half-an-hour on the internet each day.
Teachers complain that the lack of access to books in the home was now damaging children’s school work.
More than three-quarters warned that children’s attention spans were shorter than ever before in the classroom at the start of secondary school. Nearly all of teachers claimed that parents failed to spend enough time with their children reading for pleasure.
“Putting great books in the formats that children enjoy and helping parents and teachers find new ways to inspire a love of reading in children of all abilities, is a vital job for the campaign.”
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor, The Telegraph