Many Indian parents prefer to read out to kids books they liked in childhood: OUP study

Many parents in India prefer to read their children books they enjoyed in their own childhood, rather than choosing newer titles, according to a new study by Oxford University Press (OUP).

The survey, which gathered the views of 4,000 parents across India, the UK, Australia, Hong Kong and China, formed part of OUP’s second annual ‘Gift of Words’ campaign, which aims to encourage parents, family, and friends to celebrate and share the power of language and reading, especially following a second year of disruption to education due to Covid.

In the global study, almost four in 10 (37 per cent) parents said that they did not know how to find out what the latest books are, and almost half (47 per cent) prefer to re-read books to their child, rather than look for something new.

It isn’t just parents who favor familiar books: six in 10 (56 per cent) said their children preferred them to revisit the same books at story time, and half (48 per cent) of those whose children read independently said their children preferred to re-read books to themselves, according to the survey.

The parents surveyed in India reflected a similar sentiment. However, over 70 per cent of these parents preferred reading physical books to their children rather than audio books or websites.

The research also revealed the power of reading in helping young people to make sense of the world around them. More than 75 per cent of parents surveyed in India, see reading to their children as an opportunity to discuss difficult or sensitive topics with them and 85 per cent look for books that teach their children about wider society or have a meaningful message at their hearts.

The top three reasons parents cited for reading to their children were building a love for learning and reading, improving literacy and vocabulary, and developing communication skills.

Seventy eight per cent of parents surveyed in India said that reading to their child helps them to bond and connect, and 83 per cent wished they had more time to read to their child, the survey found.

Both these results were significantly higher than their global counterparts, highlighting the importance placed by Indian parents on building strong reading habits for their children, OUP said.

Similar to their global counterparts, parents surveyed in India cited the lack of sufficient support materials for reading at home (10 per cent) as a reason that they don’t read to their child. While nearly 14 per cent stated that they didn’t know how to find out about the latest books.

Fifty per cent of the parents surveyed in India stated that reading for school discourages their children from reading for pleasure.

When asked what their favorite book or author was to read to their child, parents named classic stories from Enid Blyton and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. The Panchatantra fable series also proved popular.

Nigel Portwood, CEO of OUP, said about the study: “It’s clear that more must be done to support parents in accessing materials for reading at home – including helping them to identify new titles that they can read alongside family favorites – to ensure that all children experience the benefits that reading has to offer.”

According to Sumanta Datta, managing director of OUP India, “The gaps in expected reading levels have become wider as a result of the pandemic. We at OUP are committed through our products and book titles to help parents, teachers and children, overcome challenges and inculcate an inherent love for reading.”

OUP also put together a list of books that it recommends to parents, to help their children learn about wider society. Topics include diversity, acceptance, celebrating what makes individuals unique, friendship, caring for the environment, homelessness, love, and loss.

These books are “The Pirate Mums”, “The Perfect Fit”, “Stella and the Seagull”, “A Song in the Mist”, “Everybody Has Feelings”, “Max Takes a Stand”, “The Soup Movement”, ” Bear Shaped” and “Everybody Worries”.

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