March 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Two Thirds of Parents Don’t Read to Their Kids Every Night, Reveals Poll


Only one in three parents of children ages eight and under reads stories to their kids each night, according to a new survey by the literacy organization Reading is Fundamental (RIF) and Macy’s. Overall, 87 percent of the parents who participated in the online poll read to their kids at bedtime—but not every night. Half the parents said that their children spend more time watching TV and playing video games than reading.

The national online survey of 1,003 parents, conducted in April, also found that in households with salaries under $35,000, 40 percent of kids under nine watched TV, while 35 percent read books.

Parents still favor reading print over ebooks with their kids, as 76 percent choose print while reading with their children, the poll showed. Kids also like paper better: nearly twice as many (20 percent) of those whose parents read from both formats would choose print over ebooks (nine percent). 

In its release, RIF noted that kids who are poor readers by the end of third grade  are four times more likely to drop out of high school than their more proficient peers, according to statistics. Two-thirds of all American fourth graders don’t read proficiently, and among lower-income families, that number rises to four fifths.

The results were released as RIF, which delivers free books and literacy materials to underserved children from birth to age eight, kicks off its 10th annual month-long “Be Book Smart” campaign. From June 21 to July 21, shoppers at any Macy’s store can donate $3  at the register to provide a book to a child in their community.  Contributors receive $10 off a future Macy’s purchase of $50 or more. In a concurrent sweepstakes campaign, Macy’s will give a $500 gift certificate each week to one person who promotes RIF and reading on a Facebook app. Details: or

Survey figures for race, ethnicity, education, region, household income, and number of children were weighted to be proportional to the overall population, according to an executive summary from Harris Interactive, the market research firm that compiled the online poll. Data was also weighted to reflect the mix of U.S. families nationally who have children under nine. Participants were chosen from those who agreed to participate in Harris Interactive polls.



Sarah Bayliss About Sarah Bayliss

Sarah Bayliss (, @shbayliss) is associate editor, news and features, at School Library Journal.

Building Literacy-Rich Communities
Hosted by Library Journal and School Library JournalStronger Together is a national gathering of thought leaders and innovators from across the country who will share where and how partnerships between school districts and public libraries are having success. Join us May 10–12 at the University of Nebraska Omaha, as we explore the impact these collaborations are having on the institutions, communities, and kids they serve.


  1. These stats just break my heart. But it also underlines the importance of collaborating between parents and teachers. When everyone underlines the importance of literacy, students learn and grow. Together we can start closing the achievement gap.

  2. Thanks for this post!
    Well, parents needs to devote time for their kids, their efforts can be instrumental in developing their learning skills of their children. Reading bed time stories for kids helps in inculcating early reading habit.

  3. mom in nm says:

    great article and sad that so many parents don’t read to their children every night or every other night. I think sometimes it due to some parents who don’t read well either and are embarrassed to read out loud to their kids/ babies. many young kids who didn’t have a household who read to them or cared about reading find themselves stumbling over easy words or not having the comprehension levels of an adult to understand what’s been read and this turns them away from reading as well. I read to my daughter every day and use both printed page as well as e book to read from so she’s familiar with different forms.