Save reading: how education systems are failing to promote love for books 


In an era dominated by screens and instant gratification, the art of reading for pleasure is fading among the younger generation. The traditional education system, with its emphasis on classic novels and standardised testing, is struggling to foster a genuine love for reading. This decline in reading interest is alarming, as it has profound implications for cognitive development, empathy, and academic success. 

The state of reading among today’s youth 

Recent research by the National Literacy Trust reveals a worrying trend: the number of children and young people who enjoy reading has dropped to its lowest level since 2005. Only 25.8% of children and young people said they read daily outside of class in 2020, compared to 43% in 2015. This decline is even more pronounced among teenagers, with many viewing reading as a chore rather than a pleasurable activity. 

In the UK, a study developed by Clark and others (2020) from the Department for Education found that only 30% of children aged 8 to 18 read daily for pleasure. This is a stark contrast to previous generations, where reading was a primary source of entertainment and knowledge. The report highlighted that the curriculum’s heavy focus on classic literature, often perceived as irrelevant by modern students, contributes significantly to this decline. 

Additionally, another research implemented by Ahmad, Zaheer and others (2021) revealed that one of the major obstacles parents face in encouraging reading habits among children is the excessive use of screens, such as mobile phones, televisions, and electronic games due to the amount of services these devices provide in terms of entertaining. Additional challenges include an overwhelming amount of curriculum textbooks, a lack of parental interest, the high cost of reading materials, insufficient reading practices at the school level, and the absence of school libraries. 

The role of education in promoting (or hindering) reading 

The current education system tends to emphasise classic literature, such as Shakespeare, Dickens, and Austen. While these works are undoubtedly valuable, they often fail to resonate with young readers who find them difficult and unrelatable. Forcing students to read these texts without fostering an intrinsic love for reading can lead to negative associations with books and literature. 

Moreover, the emphasis on literary analysis and comprehension tests can turn reading into a mechanical and stressful task, stripping away the joy of discovering new stories and ideas. This approach fails to acknowledge that reading for pleasure is a critical factor in developing lifelong readers. 

Introducing comics in primary education 

One solution to rekindle love for reading among children is the use of comics in primary education. Comics are a powerful medium that combine visual art with narrative, making them highly engaging for young readers. They can capture the imagination and attention of children in ways that dense, text-heavy books cannot. 

Research supporting comics in education 

Research by the University of Texas found that students who read comics showed higher levels of reading engagement and comprehension. The study suggested that the combination of visual and textual storytelling in comics helps to improve literacy skills, especially among reluctant readers. 

Practical steps for educators  

1. Diversify reading material: introduce a variety of reading materials, including comics, graphic novels, and contemporary young adult fiction, alongside classic literature. 

2. Create a reading-friendly environment: establish cosy reading corners in classrooms and libraries where students can read comfortably and without pressure. 

3. Encourage choice: allow students to choose what they want to read. Providing autonomy in selecting books can significantly boost their interest and motivation. 

4. Incorporate visual literacy: use comics to teach visual literacy and narrative skills. Discussing the artwork and story structure in comics can enhance students’ overall comprehension and appreciation of literature. 

5. Parental involvement: encourage parents to read comics with their children. Shared reading experiences can foster love for reading and provide bonding opportunities. 

The decline in reading among the younger generation is a complex issue with roots in the current educational approach. By rethinking how we introduce literature to children and incorporating engaging, relatable materials like comics, we can reignite passion for reading. It’s time for educators, parents, and policymakers to recognise that fostering love for reading in today’s digital age requires creativity, flexibility, and a willingness to embrace new mediums. Through these efforts, we can ensure that the joy of reading continues to enrich the lives of future generations. 


Clark, C. and Teravainen-Goff, A. (2020). Children and young people’s reading in 2019: Findings from our Annual Literacy Survey. London: National Literacy Trust. 

Tiemensma, L. (2009, August). Visual literacy: To comics or not to comics? Promoting literacy using comics. In World Library and information congress: 75th IFLA general conference and council (pp. 23-27). 

Ahmad, Z., Tariq, M., Iqbal, Q., & Sial, T. A. (n.d.) (2021). Exploring the Factors Affecting the Development of Reading Habits among Children. DigitalCommons@University of Nebraska – Lincoln.