Young readers and e-readers: Study

By Anne Collier

Despite their love for digital technology, 80% of kids and teens who use ebooks “still read primarily print books for fun,” a new Scholastic survey of readers aged 6-17 has found. But we are seeing a shift in the way kids read: “58% of 9-to-17-year-olds say they will always want to read books printed on paper, even though there are ebooks available,” but that’s down from 66% in 2010. Digital books (e.g., what’s read on a tablet, cellphone or laptop) may be a motivating factor, the study found, especially for boys, “who are more commonly known to be reluctant readers, to read more,” as well as for increasing all young people’s reading frequency.

Other highlighted findings of the 4th-annual “Kids & Family Reading Report” included:

* Ebooks’ power: The percentage of young people “who have read an ebook has almost doubled since 2010” (25% to 46%). Half of 9-to-17-year-olds say they’d “read more books for fun if they had greater access to ebooks – a 50% increase since 2010”; and “57% of moderately frequent readers (kids who read 1-4 days/week) who have not read an ebook agree they would read more if they had greater access to ebooks.
* Parents’ views: 49% of parents feel their children don’t spend enough time reading books that are not assigned for school, up from 36% in 2010, and 72% of parents now show an interest in having their child read ebooks.
* Gender: “One in four boys who has read an ebook says he is now reading more books for fun.” But the gender in reading frequency and attitudes … is narrowing. “Among girls since 2010, there has been a decline in frequent readers (42% vs. 36%), reading enjoyment (39% vs. 32% say they love reading), and the importance of reading books for fun (62% vs. 56% say it is extremely or very important).
* What’s the attraction: “Kids say that ebooks are better than print books when they do not want their friends to know what they are reading, and when they are out and about/traveling; print books are seen by kids as better for sharing with friends and reading at bedtime; 31% of parents who have read an ebook say they personally read more books now than they read before starting to read ebooks; and 32% of parents say they are reading new kinds of books they never thought they would read, including children’s books and teen fiction.

Finally, here’s an enduring finding that isn’t at all about technology: “Consistent with the 2010 Kids & Family Reading Report, nine in ten kids say they are more likely to finish a book they choose themselves.” That’s about agency, the capacity to act on one’s own, one of the three motivating factors I wrote about here. Agency, competency, and relevance are what motivates people to learn and participate in and out of media.

Fresh research from Pew on print vs. digital

And while we’re on the subject of reading, the Pew Internet Project just released a study finding that “patrons embrace new technologies – and would welcome more, but many still want printed books to hold their central place.” As for the numbers, Pew found that “80% of Americans say borrowing books is a ‘very important’ service libraries provide”; “80% say reference librarians are a ‘very important’ service of libraries [probably more important than ever in the midst of today information tsunami]; and, as for technology, “77% say free access to computers and the internet is a ‘very important’ service of libraries.” Libraries fill in all kinds of gaps: context and perspective, quiet time, gaps in media literacy, and access for those who don’t have it at home.

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