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How American Kids Spend Their Days

More low-income families read to their children, fewer kids play sports
  • January 16 2012

Reading aloud to children may be among the most important things parents can do to help encourage literacy, and more young children are getting that head start. According to the Census Bureau, half of children age 1 to 5 were read to seven or more times a week by a family member.

While reading interactions are more frequent among families above poverty, reading interactions among low-income families have increased over the last 10 years. In 2009, 56 percent of 1- and 2-year-olds above poverty were read to seven or more times a week, compared with 45 percent below the poverty level. However, while parental reading involvement for children above poverty was not different from rates in 1998, it rose from 37 percent for those below poverty.

This information comes from statistics from the Survey of Income and Program Participation that provides a glimpse into how children younger than 18 spend their day. It touches subjects such as the degree of interaction with parents and extracurricular activities. Other findings include:

  • From 1998 to 2009, the percentage of children ages 12 to 17 enrolled in gifted classes climbed from 21 percent to 27 percent.
  • Fewer children are participating in athletics. Regardless of the children's age, participation in sports decreased from 41 percent in 2006 down to 36 percent in 2009.
  • The percentage of children who talked or played together with a parent three or more times in a typical day increased from 50 percent in 1998 to 57 percent in 2009.
  • The percentage of children who ate dinner with a designated parent seven times per week on average increased slightly from 69 percent in 1998 to 72 percent in 2009.
  • The percentage of children whose parents praised them three or more times per day increased from 48 percent in 1998 to 57 percent in 2009.
  • In 2009, 5 percent of children 6 to 11 and 9 percent 12 to 17 had ever repeated a grade.


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