A new report released by Scholastic corroborates the findings of the company’s 2006 report on children’s reading habits, finding that pleasure reading in children begins to decline at age eight and continues to do so into the teen years. The study found that a majority of children (68%) think it is “extremely” or “very” important to read for pleasure, and “like” or “love” doing so. However, that number decreases with age: 82% percent of children ages five to eight “like” or “love” reading, compared to 55% for children ages 15 to 17. It also found that although children can readily envision a future in which reading and technology are increasingly intertwined, nearly two thirds prefer to read physical books, rather than on a computer screen or digital device. Additionally, a large majority of children recognize the importance of reading for their future goals, with 90% of respondents agreeing that they “need to be a strong reader to get into a good college.”
The 2008 Kids and Family Reading Report, conducted by TSC, a division of consumer trends research company Yankelovich, is based on interviews with 1,002 respondents (501 children ages five to 17 and a parent or guardian for each). It explored kids’ attitudes toward reading, as well as the roles that technology, parental input and the Harry Potter books play in their reading habits.
Nearly one in four children was found to be a “high frequency” pleasure reader (reading daily), with an additional 53% qualifying as “moderate frequency” readers, reading for pleasure between one and six times per week. When children were asked why they do not engage in more pleasure reading, the top answer selected was “I would rather do other things,” followed in frequency by “I have too much schoolwork and homework,” and “I have trouble finding books that I like.” (This third answer was the top response selected in the 2006 survey.) Boys outnumbered girls by 10% in all age categories in stating that they had trouble finding enjoyable books.
In terms of technology, the study found that more children ages eight and up spend time online than read for pleasure on a daily basis. However, the finding has a silver lining. “High frequency Internet users are more likely to read books for fun every day,” said Heather Carter, director of corporate research at Scholastic in a statement. “That suggests that parents and teachers can tap into kids’ interest in going online to spark a greater interest in reading books.” Nearly two-thirds of children ages nine to 17 “extended” the reading experience online, including activities such as visiting an author’s Web site, using the Internet to find books by a particular author or visiting a fan site.
In terms of parental involvement, the statistics were in keeping with those reported in 2006, demonstrating a strong correlation between parents’ reading habits and those of their children: parents who read frequently were found to be six times more likely to have children that read often, compared to those who read infrequently. Around one quarter of parents (24%) said they read frequently, up from 21% in the 2006 survey. And 82% of parents responded that they wished their children read more for fun, with nearly the same percentage citing reading skills as one of the top three most important skills for their children to possess, along with critical thinking and math skills.
Mothers were cited as the family member most likely to read to children among parents with children ages five to 11, and they were also the top source of ideas for pleasure reading for those under age 11—children ages 12 and up, however, reported that they were most likely to get book ideas from friends. Fathers did not fare as well in either the book recommendation (coming in behind mothers, friends, teachers and librarians overall) or “reading with children” categories (just over three-quarters of children reported mothers to be the most likely person to read to them at home, versus around half who said their father was most likely to read with them). The study also found that the frequency with which parents read to or with children drops sharply after age eight.
As to the influence of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, of the children who had read the books, almost three-quarters said the series had made them interested in reading other books. Some, however, would be happy simply to have more Harry in their lives: 31% of children don’t believe the series is over.
To read the full report, click here.