Cost-of-living crisis: one in five parents spend less on books for their children

Survey of more than 3,000 parents across Great Britain found 40% are struggling financially, with parents increasingly relying on school libraries

One in five parents and carers are spending less on books for their children because of the cost-of-living crisis, and a quarter have asked children to borrow more books from the school library, new research has found.

The research, which surveyed more than 3,000 parents and carers across Great Britain, also found that the cost-of-living crisis is having a concerning impact on children’s education, with one in six respondents to the survey saying their child was struggling more at school now compared with 12 months ago.

While around 20% of parents and carers overall said they were spending less on books for their children as a result of the increasing cost of living, this increased to 36% for families who felt that they were struggling financially with the increase in the cost of living.

The research is from the National Literacy Trust (NLT) and digital bank Chase, and was conducted by YouGov. It looked at reading habits as well as spending on books, finding that 10% of parents and carers said they were too stressed to read to their child because of economic pressures. This figure almost doubled to 19% when it came to parents and carers who deemed themselves as struggling financially.

Jonathan Douglas, chief executive of the NLT, said: “We know that experiencing poverty and financial strain impacts children’s literacy – with families not being able to afford books and having less time and energy to spend reading, writing and talking to their children at home.”

According to the research, around 40% of families say they are struggling financially, leading to lower spending on books for children.

Around 40% of respondents said their child did not have access to a quiet space to read at home. Parents and carers instead are increasingly relying on school libraries to get their children access to books and to provide a welcoming reading environment. This is despite the fact that one in seven state primary schools do not have a dedicated library space, affecting more than 750,000 children, according to the NLT. Schools are not statutorily required to have a library on their premises.

Cressida Cowell.
Cressida Cowell. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Author Cressida Cowell, in her final act as children’s laureate in 2022, renewed a call for the government to invest £100m in primary school libraries, following research that showed school libraries help to improve academic standards, as well as foster a love of reading in children.

The NLT and Chase’s research comes at the start of the second year of the Chase Rewarding Futures school library programme, which aims to support children and young people to fulfil their future potential by developing an early love of reading. The programme, which is supported Penguin Random House UK, will see around 62,000 children in underserved areas given access to new library spaces and 312 primary school teachers given bespoke training to support them with implementing a reading for pleasure strategy.

Research in autumn 2022 from the Booksellers Association in partnership with Nielsen BookData found that young customers, those with children, and people most affected by the cost-of-living crisis were expected to reduce their spending on books, with up to 30% expecting to buy fewer books in the next year.


Sarah Shaffi

The GuardianTramp

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