Scholastic has published the fifth edition of its popular Kids & Family Reading Report, the results of a survey conducted in conjunction with YouGov that gauges how children and their parents view reading in their daily lives. The organizations polled over 2,500 respondents, representing ages 0-17, in late 2014. Questions ranged from the importance and frequency of reading for pleasure, what makes a “frequent” reader, where kids are reading, and what kids are looking for when selecting books.
Of the children surveyed, 51% were currently reading a book for fun, and an additional 20% had recently completed one. Significantly more girls than boys identified in the former category. The other 29% of students admitted to not having read for pleasure in a long time. Surprisingly, when compared to these numbers, only 46% of children felt pleasure reading and developing skills in this area are important, compared to 71% of their parents.
Scholastic also looked at the differences between “frequent” (5-7 days a week) and “infrequent” (less than one day a week) reading. Today, 31% of the children polled identify as frequent readers, down from 37% in 2010. The two demographics responsible for this drop are boys of any age, and readers over the age of 8.
Perhaps the biggest reason behind the drop in reading frequency among older readers is the increasing prevalence of other activities, such as sports, extracurriculars, and most notably, spending time using devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers. Unfortunately, the report notes that many children have found activities they prefer, preventing them from reading as much as they did when they were younger. One positive finding was that children are far more likely to enjoy reading—and thus take part in it more frequently—when they are given the freedom to choose their own books.
If reading frequency is dropping as kids get older, how can public libraries help combat this trend? One obvious solution is to encourage children—and their parents—to choose books they would like to read for fun. Older kids (ages 12-17) also noted they were more likely to read if they had a good understanding of their reading level. This makes reader’s advisory more important than ever; not only is it important for librarians to help young patrons find books and topics that are of interest, it is also vital to bear the appropriate reading level in mind.
The study additionally shows a positive correlation between how regularly parents read and whether their children will become frequent readers. The prevalence of books at home is also a strong indicator of a more avid reader. Because so many adults cannot afford to purchase reading material for their families, this makes borrowing from the library critical.
Although it can be somewhat disheartening to see that pleasure reading is on the decline for children, libraries are in a powerful position to help stop this slide. By promoting our youth collections and sharpening our reader’s advisory skills, we can get kids and their parents more excited about reading. How do you motivate the young readers in your library?