700,000 free books given to school starters

New research from BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, finds that only just over half of children (51 per cent) aged between 8 – 11 don’t talk with their parents when they are feeling stressed, sad or worried and a staggering 44% per cent say that they try to forget about the problem or don’t say anything and deal with it to themselves. 

The research highlights the importance of reading for children’s mental health and comes as the charity is set to give out over 700,000 free copies of Rob Hodgson’s laugh-out-loud picture book ‘The Cave’ to every school starter in England as part of its annual Time to Read campaign.

Additional key findings include:

  • Over a third of parents of children aged 4-11 (34 per cent) worry about their child’s mental health at least once a week, and these worries appear well placed as almost two thirds (60 per cent) of children aged 8-11 say they feel stressed, sad or worried at least once a month
  • The top way children aged 8-11 choose to relax is by doing screen-based activities (eg.TV and video games) (65 per cent) however reading on their own (38 per cent) and reading with a parent/carer (27 per cent) are considerably less popular.
  • 2 in 5 (39%) children aged 8-11 said they find it difficult to talk about their feelings or emotions.
  • Children aged 8-11 who feel worried, sad, or angry, say the most common reasons they feel this way are:
    • Friendship problems (46 per cent)
    • Schoolwork (43 per cent)
    • Loneliness (25 per cent)
  • Parents of children aged 4-11 say the most common signs of children being worried or anxious are:
    • Angry outbursts at home (42 per cent)
    • Crying more than usual (36 per cent)
    • Sleeping problems (28 per cent)
  • Nearly a third (31%) of children aged 8-11 said their favourite thing about being read to is spending time with their parent/carer.
  • 9 in 10 of parents (90 per cent) aged 4-11 do agree that reading together is a useful tool to help open up conversations with their child, however almost 70 per cent stopped reading to their children by the time they started at Key Stage 2 (7 years old).

The research, backed by Psychologist Emma Kenny and Place2Be, the leading national children’s mental health charity shows how important t is to create opportunities for parents and carers to start conversations with children about the challenges they might be facing. Reading together enables children to discuss difficult situations and issues in a non-confrontational way, whilst also creating moments away from the distractions of every-day life.

Emma Kenny, This Morning’s resident psychologist said:

“Reading is a great activity to help you bond with your child and talk about their day. It also helps to create good routines, which make children feel safer and more confident. Add to that the way books can let children explore challenging themes and situations in a safe way, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for building resilience and ensuring that children feel able to talk about the things that are worrying and upsetting them.

Diana Gerald, BookTrust CEO commented:

“Sharing a book is about so much more than simply reading a story together. It creates a wonderful closeness, and it’s also an opportunity to talk about the themes in the book, whether that’s separation anxiety, making friends, losing someone important or simply learning to be brave.

“It’s so easy to stop the bedtime story or other shared reading once children can read for themselves, but that magical ten minutes doesn’t just help engage children in stories and reading; it also relaxes them, helps them understand the world around them, and often stimulates important conversations about what’s going on in their lives. Our research shows that children love to be read with, and we hope that The Cave will prove hugely popular with families across the country.”

Catherine Roche, CEO of leading children’s health charity Place2Be, said: 

“Three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health problem. Half of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14 which is why early identification and intervention to address these problems is important.

“We know from our experience that reading with your child in a warm, non-judgemental manner can be an excellent way to open up conversations about emotions, feelings and behaviours and help children to feel less alone.

“As a parent, it can sometimes be hard to have these conversations but using characters in books, and the situations they experience can help start a dialogue. Reading together can help you spot worries and anxieties before they are magnified.”