What books are kids reading?

Good News! Research shows that, even in a pandemic, kids still love reading!

In our fast-paced digital world, you could be forgiven for thinking that children’s interest in books is waning, replaced by mobile phones, iPads and TikTok trends. Thankfully, Renaissance Learning’s recent ‘What Kids are Reading’ report has revealed that children are not only still interested in books, but are absorbing a wide range of exciting and engaging texts throughout childhood.

The report looked at 60,000 students across 365 schools in New Zealand and Australia to uncover the book titles and authors that school students were reading most.

Given the disruption of the pandemic, it is reassuring that so much reading took place. It goes without saying that the past year and a half has provided many challenges, and it was amazing to see how students stayed engaged while in lockdown or remote learning, with over 100 million words read during our open access period.

It was great to see many local authors appearing alongside many international bestsellers, with ANZ authors including Anh Doh, Sally Rippin, Aaron Blabey, Andy Griffiths and Morris Gleitzman placing high on the list of most popular books. Books from the international bestseller series Harry Potter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid also topped the lists.

For boys and girls in kindergarten to year two, Australian author Aaron Blabey’s Pig the Pug was the favourite overall. Anh Do’s WeirdDo 2: Even Weirder! retained its number one spot on the list of most-read titles for boys and girls in year three, and the Roald Dahl classic The Twits was the most popular book for year 4 students.

Jeff Kinney’s The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series dominated the list for year five students, taking the top thirteen spots overall. In year six, Raina Telgemeier’s Guts, Smile and Sisters was the most popular book for girls and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Wrecking Ball was the most popular with boys.

For high school students, The Hunger Games dominated the list of most-read titles taking out prime positions throughout years seven to 12, and charting first overall for year 10, 11 and 12 students.

When it comes to reading difficulty, the ‘What Kids are Reading’ research found average book difficulty plateaued in secondary school, with high school students still reading the same difficulty of books as upper primary students. For female students, however, the level of difficulty increased dramatically when they reached Year 10.

A child’s attitude towards reading can have a great impact on how often they pick up a book, how engaged they become in the story, and what level they can comfortably read at. As children begin to associate reading with enjoyment, their overall reading ability and confidence strengthens.

For kids who show a keen interest in reading, suggesting books of greater difficulty might be a great challenge – especially with all the spare time afforded us in lockdown. We’ve found children who feel confident in their reading are more likely to select a book for enjoyment than those who have negative experiences or lack confidence.

If a child is struggling to motivate themselves to read, enjoyment of a particular topic or genre can help. A connection to the wider popular culture is a great way to keep students engaged and excited about reading throughout their school life, and series such as Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid can really help to achieve this. By staying tuned into their kids’ current motivation levels around reading, parents will be better placed to help them self-select books that fit their mood.

If your child is still struggling to find the right read, ask their teacher about Renaissance’s ‘Accelerated Reader’ and ‘myON’ assist, which helps teachers select books for children. AR saves time, motivates students to read and is more reliable and accurate than traditional methods of tracking pupil book reading.

The ‘What Kids are Reading’ report shows that with the right books in hand, kids are still incredibly keen to indulge in reading. No matter their age range, difficulty level, or favourite genre, there’s bound to be something out there that they’ll love.

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