Children abandon booksfor TVs, games in bedrooms
A CELTIC Tiger-era explosion of televisions and PlayStations in Irish children's bedrooms went hand in hand with a decline in reading standards.
As quickly as they switched on their personal screens, Irish teenagers and younger children abandoned storybooks.
By the age of 12, more than six in 10 children have a television in their bedroom and the figure rises when they move into their teens, according to research from the Educational Research Centre (ERC) in Drumcondra, Dublin.
Another study, the 'Growing Up In Ireland Survey', found that more than a third of nine-year-olds had a video games console in their bedroom in 2009.
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds, who suffer the worst literacy problems, are even more likely to have their own TVs.
And the more likely a child is to have a TV in the bedroom, the less likely the house is to have a supply of books.
Eight in 10 sixth-class pupils with no more than 10 books in their homes have a TV in their bedrooms.
Research shows that watching a lot of television is likely to affect children's performance in school. A 12-year-old without a TV in the bedroom scored higher in a national assessment of reading and maths that was conducted by ERC last year.
The inextricable link between books in the home and performance in both reading and maths was also highlighted.
A sixth-class pupil -- typically aged 12 -- living in a house with 500 or more books obtained significantly higher results in the 2009 test.
However, more than one in 10 sixth-class pupils live in a home with no more than 10 books.
The same study also found that the internet and computer games were commonplace in homes and that one in five pupils spent at least two hours (combined) per day on these activities. These pupils had lower scores on reading and maths than those whose usage was more moderate.
And it's not only at home that books may be scarce. Irish children are losing out when it comes to getting a choice of reading material at school.
According to the OECD PISA 2009 report, eight in 10 Irish 15-year-olds are in a school where there is a library, compared with an OECD average of nine in 10.
In Australia, every student has access to a school library.
While more than half the 15-year-olds across the OECD borrow books from a library for pleasure, in Ireland the figure is just four in 10.
As well as two hours of tests, students participating in the PISA survey also complete a questionnaire about issues such as background, learning habits and attitudes towards reading.
According to the findings, the proportion of 15-year-olds who read "only if I have to" rose from 36pc to 39pc between 2000 and 2009, while the number who described reading as "a waste of time" was also up from 19pc to 24pc.
There was a fall in the number who reported reading as "one of my favourite hobbies" -- down from 36pc to 32pc.