Children and Teen Reading Rates Falling


The National Literacy Trust conducted a survey of 21,000 children and teens in the UK about their reading habits.  In 2005, four out of ten children read daily.  That has fallen to three in ten. 

What I find most troubling about the survey results is that one in five children said that they rarely or never read in their own time.  17% of the children even said they would be embarrassed to be seen reading by their friends.  Scary that! 

Even genres you might think would be continuing in their popularity are falling.  Magazine reading fell by 20% since 2005 with only 57% of children reading magazines.  Even more surprising is the comic reading dropping to 50% from the 64% in 2005.

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, gives the following statement:

We believe we need to inspire a new generation to read in the same way that the Olympics is inspiring a new generation to take part in sport.

We need to make reading irresistible. We want to call on families and professionals working with children and young people to make ten minutes in their day for reading.

This is about carving out reading time yes, but it is also about getting the right books into the hands of children.  It’s about allowing them to read about their own interests, taking them to the library to explore those interests, and getting out of the way.  We have to let go of what books are best for them and just get them turning pages.  Quality will follow.  I promise.

The same is true of adults, who need to read what they love (even if that is children’s and teen books) so that they can model reading for the children in their lives.  If reading is good for youth, it’s just as good for us!

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6 thoughts on “Children and Teen Reading Rates Falling

  1. Also problematic is the gender gap in reading, with the study finding that more girls read than boys (with many of the youngest respondents believing that “reading is more for girls
    than boys”). We seem to expect boys to be more interested in active activities (outdoor play, sports, and video games), having a detrimental effect on boys’ literacy and girls’ athletic opportunities.

    1. Very true! As a mother to two boys, one who was a natural reader and the other who had to be worked with a lot to find books he enjoyed, it is a struggle to pry their eyes away from the screens and to the page. Happily, their father is also a reader and models it for them daily.

      1. It is so important for children to see their parents read! My husband and I are both avid readers, but now that most of our reading is on Kindle, I’m not sure whether our young kids understand that what we are doing is different from playing games on the ipad.

  2. I wish so much that more people felt the way you do on this, Tasha. Understood how critical this is, and tried to take action.

    I just made a little reading nook for my daughter (armchair, book basket). When she proudly said to my husband “That my reading spot. Mommy made it.” I felt like I had done something right.

  3. While this was a UK study I would imagine the results would be the same in the US. Too much texting, too much time spent on Facebook and Twitter. Too much time viewing the lastest on YouTube. Too many computer games. We are developing a technological savvy population of young people at the expense of reading, personal contact and phyical/athletic activities. Parents have to clamp down on their children’s dependence on technology. Teachers have to encourage reading. And technology companies and social network sites have to grow a conscience and strongly “suggest” there is more to life than Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and texting. But they won’t because all they care about is the bottom line and their own perverted sense of what is best for this and generations to follow.

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