Parents respond: You can blame the “idiot box” for 50% of children having never read a book with their parents

If you thought deeming it a “reading crisis” was a tad too harsh, you probably haven’t seen the stats yet. 

The stats are alarming and while we know it has much to do with creating a reading culture – in the home too – we're wondering what it is that results in, specifically, parents not and having never read a book to their kids.


Read more here: 50% of children have never read a book with their parents – here's why we need to encourage reading early on


50% of children in SA have never read a book with their parents? Why? 

We asked South African parents to weigh in on why they don’t read to their children and of the nearly 8 000 responses that we got, 8% felt it made no difference whether or not they read to their kids, while 9% said books are simply too expensive and another 9% admitted they just don’t have the time. 

One parent wrote in to shed light on the latter saying, “Many of my colleagues' children don't even live with them. The kids get raised by a family member. The reason: time.” 

“To be at work on time some of my colleagues wake up at 4am to be at work at 7am, getting home at 7 or 8pm. It’s crazy! Where are they going to get time to read to the little ones? And on their off days it’s cleaning and washing and shopping. Transport and 45 hour work weeks. 

“I am fortunate to read with my daughter every night. Now that she can read we devour stories and it is the best time of my day.” 

Significantly though, in the survey we did, 74% of parents said that regardless of whether they had the resources and were lucky enough to have the time, their children would just much rather watch TV. 

“I have a library full of books. We bought my daughter stacks of books,” explained one dad. “My wife, my mother and I would sit and read to her from the age of 2 years.” 

But he says it didn’t matter. “She never read any books that weren’t school-related and her reading and spelling are terrible.” 

“Simply put, price was no object. She preferred to sit and watch the idiot box.”


Also read: 8 out of 10 Grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning and this NPO is trying to help


Idiot boxes and screen time 

Idiot boxes are entertaining, no doubt, but mindlessly so, unless you’ve got a child who loves watching the history channel and uses their cellphone to watch maths hacks videos online, of course. 

But the thing is, we don’t think we can possibly put any stricter limitations on screen time. The guidelines are currently at an hour or less a day, and in this day and age, while we hope most families stick to it, we’re not sure that’s entirely realistic. 

Instead we propose taking the very evil we’re so afraid is eating at our children’s brains, and using it for good.


Also read: No, e-learning will not erode SA's knowledge and cultures, it will aid it


We wouldn’t suggest throwing away your television screen and replacing it with a bookshelf as Roald Dahl suggested, but you could download eBooks, subscribe to one of the very many children’s book YouTube channels out there, or click here and check out our Storytime hub

We may not have completely lost that reading culture we once had. It may just be a matter of adopting new and exciting ways to introduce reintroduce the magic of reading. 

Chat back

Do you struggle to get your children to read?

Tell us why and we can publish your comments. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous. 

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