Scholastic Study: Kids Read Less as They Get Older, But Want to Use E-Readers
A study commissioned by Scholastic -- the publisher of the 'Goosebumps' and 'Harry Potter' series -- found that 57-percent of kids aged 9 to 17 were interested in reading on electronic devices. Their parents, however, believe that using electronic devices of any kind limits the amount of time they would actually read, do physical activity or hang out with their families. This past spring, the Scholastic survey interviewed 1,045 children aged 6 to 17 and their parents. (Download the PDF version of the report here.)
The report is full of curious figures about children's and parents' attitudes toward reading in general. Of the kids who read for fun less than one day a week, one third said they would read more books for fun if they had access to e-books; but two thirds of all kids said they would never want to give up their printed books. But as kids get older, the amount of time they spent reading overwhelmingly decreased, while the attention paid to using the Internet and talking and texting on the phone increased.
Of course, parents and kids disagree on the definition of reading. Kids were more likely to think that texting and looking at comments on social networking sites counted as reading, while nearly half of parents disagreed. Of those same kids aged 9 to 17, 39-percent thought that the information that they found online was always correct, suggesting that Internet usage decreased critical thinking; 84-percent of parents worried that their children have to learn how to evaluate far more information than they did at the same age.
Attitudes toward reading for fun also split along gender lines; 62-percent of girls thought that reading books for fun was very important, while only 39-percent of boys thought so. One father of a 9-year-old girl polled said, "I did not like reading books as a child. I read no more books than my child does now and I feel that I turned out okay. Everybody is different."
Time spent reading for fun also steadily decreased after the age of 8 -- but this should come as no surprise, as the demands of school increase with age. "Most of the time I don't read for fun because of one primary reason: Schoolwork is far too much to even have much free time for anything," said one 16-year-old boy surveyed. But parents overwhelmingly agreed that reading for fun was important for their children, and most kids agreed that they should probably read more for fun. The report found that younger children (aged 9 to 11) were more likely to be frequent readers if their parents always kept interesting books at home, and if they limited their time using electronic devices. As kids got older, they were more likely to read if their parents allowed them to choose what they read, or suggested books they might like.
The survey's findings pose a series of questions for book publishers and parents. If a third of children say that they would be more likely to read on a digital device, should parents limit their time with technology? Or should they only limit things like video games and cell phones, while giving them access to computers and Kindles? Parents worry that their children's attention spans are decreasing as a result of texting and social networking, but those modes of communication may also have to do with the social exploration that's necessary to their maturation.
Publishers are faced with the task of conceding that parents are wary of handing their kids another light-up toy, while also providing fun books across a variety of formats. ('Harry Potter' is currently only available in print.) The onus is on the publishers to find a way to create engaging digital content while persuading parents that e-reading is in their children's best interest.