Henry and children’s booksThe Wilton (CT) Villager ran a story recently that wondered whether the classic American bedtime storytime is dying out. The finding comes from another study, “Reading Across the Nation,” (warning: this is a PDF document) recently released by the UCLA Center for Healthier Children. The document lists how much parents in each of the major ethnic/cultural groups in all 50 states are reading to their children, as well as what percentages of children are “Proficient” in reading in fourth grade.

All of us would like to see parents or caregivers reading to their children every day or every night, but not everyone can do that. The numbers you’ll see represent those who claim they do. The newspaper article says:

Bedtime stories were biggest in Vermont, where 67 percent of respondents claimed to read to children daily. Mississippi ranked last, with a score of 38 percent.

Pete Cowdin, co-owner of the Reading Reptile children’s bookstore in Kansas City, Mo., characterized the survey’s findings as “ridiculous.” Parents who read to their young children every day are “pretty rare in this day and age,” he said, and estimated the true percentage who do so as in the 20s.

I wonder what the true number is, but I can’t picture that 67 percent of families anywhere in this country read to their children every night – although I hope that it’s true. I think that the ages of children who are read to are mostly children between the ages of 2 and 8, but it would be interesting to see what percentages of children of each age are read to even a few days or nights a week.

As the story says, I’ll bet that many parents stop reading to their kids once they’re old enough to read on their own. Actually, we librarians know that those elementary grades are perhaps the most critical time to be reading to our kids – third and fourth grades in particular – because those are the grades when kids can become discouraged and stop seeing the fun in reading.

If you go into the actual PDF document, it’s nice to see that the document also lists how many children ages 0 – 5 there are in each state per public library. The US national average is 1,368 children, but the number in individual states varies widely – Utah, for example, has 2,155 children per library, while Vermont has 214.