A young girl is seated on a couch. Her legs are criss crossed. She is reading from a tablet.

Overcoming the Decline by 9: Tips to Keep Children Reading for Fun

May 29, 2024

Reading for pleasure is a fundamental activity that nurtures imagination, cognitive skills, and academic success. However, research has shown that many children experience a significant drop in their enthusiasm for reading by age 9, a trend often referred to as the ‘decline by 9.’ Understanding the causes of this decline and implementing strategies to counteract it can help parents keep their children engaged with reading well into their teenage years.

Why the Decline?

The ‘decline by 9’ phenomenon is backed by numerous studies highlighting a sharp decrease in the number of children who read for pleasure once they reach the age of 9. According to a report by Scholastic, reading frequency drops significantly around this age, with 52% of children aged 6–8 reading for fun 5–7 days a week compared to just 35% of children aged 9–11. The number of kids who say they love reading drops significantly from 40 percent among 8-year-olds to 28 percent among 9-year-olds.

The good news? Parents and caregivers can play a crucial role in reversing this trend. Here’s what we know about “decline by 9” and how to keep kids engaged with reading beyond this critical age.

Understanding the Decline

Shifting Curriculum

As children progress through school, the focus often shifts towards more structured reading, with less emphasis on choice and enjoyment. While essential skills development is important, reading, once a leisure activity, may start to feel like an additional chore.

Shift in Interests

As children grow older, their interests diversify. Activities such as sports and social interactions begin to compete for their time and attention. This leaves less time for leisure activities like reading, making it a conscious effort to maintain the habit.

Difficulty Finding Engaging Material

The transition from picture books to chapter books can be challenging, and children might struggle to find books that resonate with their evolving interests, especially as their reading level advances but their tastes remain in flux.

Seven Tips for Sustaining an Interest in Reading

Create a Family Reading Routine

Establish a consistent reading routine that fits into your child’s daily schedule. Whether it’s a bedtime story or a dedicated reading hour after school, consistency helps reinforce the habit. Set aside dedicated reading time each day for everyone, including parents, to enjoy a book. This creates a sense of shared experience and reinforces the value of reading.

Offer a Variety of Reading Materials

Provide access to various books, magazines, and comics that cater to your child’s evolving interests and let them choose what they read. Whether sports, animals, or fantasy, connecting reading material to their passions can significantly boost their enthusiasm.

Read Together

Reading aloud is a powerful way to connect with your child and expose them to richer vocabulary and storytelling techniques. Even older children can benefit from shared reading experiences. Encourage laughter and lightheartedness while reading. Discuss funny characters exciting plot twists, and explore the pictures together.

Model Reading Behavior

Children are more likely to develop a love for reading if they see their parents enjoying books. Set aside time to read for your own pleasure and discuss your favorite books and authors with your child.

Embrace Technology

Explore audiobooks or ebooks with features like narration and animation. These can be a great way to make reading more engaging, especially for reluctant readers. Military families can download United Through Reading’s free app to video record stories children can play on demand. This virtual storytime contributes to the read-aloud experience and helps emergent readers learn to read.

Encourage Social Reading

Promote book clubs or reading groups where your child can share their thoughts and discuss books with peers. Extend the reading experience further by engaging with the stories in other ways. Have the book club watch movie adaptations, visit museums related to the book’s topic, or act out scenes together. This social aspect can make reading more enjoyable and less isolating.

Celebrate Reading Achievements

Acknowledge and celebrate your child’s reading milestones. Use a reading log to keep track of pages and books read. Reward them for finishing a book or reaching a reading goal with praise, a special outing, or another book.
Remember, fostering a love of reading is a journey, not a destination. Children can continue to find joy and enrichment in reading with the right support and resources. By understanding the factors contributing to this decline and actively working to counteract them, parents and caregivers can help sustain their children’s love for reading. Through providing choices, making it fun, and leading by example, you can help your child navigate the “decline by nine” and develop a lifelong love of getting lost in a good book.

United Through Reading believes every child deserves the chance to experience the magic of books. We are committed to helping families foster a lifelong love of reading. We encourage you to explore our website for resources and book recommendations to keep your child’s reading journey exciting! By implementing these strategies, parents can play an integral role in keeping the magic of reading alive for every child beyond age nine and into the future.