ACT kids beat states in sport, reading
A competitor dives during a junior championships event at Civic Swimming Pool. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show swimming and diving are among the most popular sport for children in the ACT. Photo: Richard Briggs
Canberra children are more likely than their interstate peers to play sport, participate in organised artistic and cultural activities and read for pleasure.
The results of an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey on the leisure activities of five to 14-year-olds show that children are spending more time using computers or playing video games and less time reading books.
The survey found that 73 per cent of children in the ACT played organised sport outside of school hours, compared to a national rate of 60 per cent.
The five most popular sports for girls in Australia were swimming and diving (19 per cent), netball (16 per cent), gymnastics 8 per cent), basketball (7 per cent) and tennis (6 per cent).
Boys favoured soccer (22 per cent), swimming and diving (16.5 per cent), Australian Rules (14.9 per cent) rugby league (7.5 per cent) and rugby union (4 per cent).
Children from single-parent families were less likely to participate in organised sport, as were children born overseas.
More than half of the children surveyed reported skateboarding, rollerblading or riding a scooter and almost two-thirds of them rode bicycles.
Almost 40 per cent of ACT children aged between five and 14 participated in an organised cultural activity such as singing, dancing, drama or arts and craft.
About 80 per cent of ACT children reported reading for pleasure, but nationally the number of children reading as a recreational activity appeared to be declining.
The survey found that the proportion of children reading for pleasure fell from 75 per cent to 71 per cent between 2006 and 2012.
Children spent an average of 15 hours watching television, DVDs or videos in the fortnight before the survey and another 10 hours on other screen-based activities such as playing on the internet or console games.
Associate Professor Kaye Lowe, a literacy expert at the University of Canberra, said she had not detected a decline in the time children spent reading in recent times but the types of material children were accessing had changed, particularly as they spent more time using computers.
''I haven't seen a decline in children reading, but I think they're accessing a different range of texts. It's all literacy and I think when kids are reading and writing in any form that's good,'' she said.
Professor Lowe said parents should help children to find books that they were interested in and lead by example by reading in front of their children.
''Maybe just consider turning the TV off between 7 and 7.30 and say, 'What we do in this family is read'. I think the other thing worth noting is that reading habits for boys are not necessarily the same as those for girls,'' she said.
Professor Lowe said boys were more likely to prefer non-fiction, sporting magazines and graphic novels.
She said some children were intimidated by the size and small print in longer books but were happy to read them on tablet devices, where the text could be enlarged and the length was not as obvious.