Trendspotting: Kids & Digital Reading

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Location: Books & Such main office, Santa Rosa, Calif.

I recently read the results of a survey Scholastic conducted regarding kids and their reading habits in our increasingly digital age. I found lots of fascinating insight about the reading habits these children are developing.  Did you know…

  • 25% of 9- to 17-year-olds believe texting constitutes reading
  • 25% of 6- to 17-year-olds have read a book on a digital device
  • 14% of parents have read a book on a digital device
  • 39% of 9- to 17-year-olds believe online information is always correct
  • 33% of 9- to 17-year-olds would read more if they had access to e-books
  • 66% of 9- to 17-year-olds will continue to read print books
  • 39% of boys say reading for fun is important
  • 56% of 6- to 8-year-olds read frequently (5 to 7 days per week)
  • 24% of 15- to 17-year-olds read frequently
  • 91% of children are more likely to finish a book they have picked out

What surprises you in these statistics? Do you see the same trends in your children or children you know? How do these numbers inform your writing?

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18 Comments

  • Shocked by the first 25%: Clearly it’s time to write a book in leetspeak.

    Surprised and delighted by 66%.

    Not at all surprised by 91%.

  • LeAnne Hardy says:

    Fascinating, Janet. I am amazed that kids think texting=reading, especially having seen the spellings that appear in text messages. I’m pleased that so many boys are reading although I would like to see the stats broken down by age groups.

    My children are avid readers. My grandchild are younger than these statistics cover. They are still very much into the physical book that they can put into my hands as they climb into my lap. But the four-year-old is tech savvy. “Podcast” was in her two-year-old vocabulary. I have no doubt she will move easily in the world of e-books as well as print.

  • Salena Stormo says:

    I have a son who is 6 years old. I homeschool him. In his Kindergarden year he read 100 books. So far this school year he has read 63 books. I always wanted to pass my love of reading onto my children and I hope that I am doing that with him. He loves to read in the car, at rest time in the afternoons, etc. The statistics that made me cringe were those that related to electronic devises. I am very old fashioned when it comes to holding a book, and feeling connected to the story somehow through the paper pages. I wish we were not moving into the era where even our treasured books are digital. It makes me sad. :( When I write, I envision the reader curled up in a comfortable chair holding the book I painstakingly wrote for their enjoyment and my own.

  • Fascinating survey. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out in the publishing world of tomorrow.

    Both my kids (girl-9 and boy-7) are…
    a. Avid technogeeks and
    b. Avid readers (of hardcopy books).

    We have to embrace the technology because Christ’s voice needs to be heard in every generation through every medium.

  • Sarah Tipton says:

    I too am surprised that so many think texting is reading and the belief in information found on the internet is scary. I remember my teachers telling me that you can’t believe everything you read online. I assume teachers are still saying that but the kids aren’t listening?

    I do understand the use of electronic devices. Carrying ten books on my two week vacation was a lot easier on my iPhone than in my suitcase, considering what airlines are charging for luggage! I still like paperbacks, though. Some series I collect in paperback and others on kindle or B&N’s eReader.

    My oldest daughter, and only completely independent reader, has read one book on my husband’s phone. She was stuck waiting without a book one day and he had a book appropriate for her to read. But I wouldn’t make a habit of letting her, or my other children, read that way because electronic devices are expensive, even if the books on them are cheaper.

    I am writing upper middle grade and YA books, so, if (or when!) I get published, I hope to make electronic copies available. I wouldn’t want to exclusively publish electronically, but I do think it is a trend that will stay. I think my husband likes it because it cuts back on the volume of books lying around. I don’t have enough shelf space.

  • Janet Grant janetgrant says:

    I know many writers and readers have an aversion to ebooks, but I have to say, at bedtime, I curl up with my Kindle and love the experience. It’s so easy to turn pages, I don’t struggle with the book flopping around, and if I fall asleep while reading, Kindle knows what page I was on.

  • Lindsay Franklin says:

    Somehow, none of the statistics were surprising, probably because I have three younger children and was a youth leader at my church with junior high and high school kids. The texting stat makes me sad, but it’s not a shock.

    Like Salena, I homeschool my kids. My fourth-grader and kindergartener will read at least a hundred books this year, between school and pleasure reading. Passing on a love of reading is very important to me, and I hope I’m successful with that goal. So far, so good. Check back with me when they hit high school. ;)

    I love paper books. I don’t have anything against e-books, but I hope the medium of paper books won’t die out because of electronic alternatives. I love cracking open the spine of a new book and feeling the cover and pages in my hands. Still, my kids’ generation may need e-books in order for reading to stay relevant. They’re so techy, straight from the womb, it seems. I’d rather embrace the e-book than see literature die out altogether!

  • None of the stats surprise me either. The 39% of boys who read for fun of course translates to 61% who don’t read for fun. In my mind, that means we need to do a better job writing what will lure those “reading isn’t fun” guys to books.

    Becky

  • The texting doesn’t surprise me. In my junior high class, I have to constantly be on the watch for kids with hands resting under the table. But every generation passed notes. Texting is just the Kindle of junior high note passing. It is also just one aspect of all social media. They spend enormous time on MySpace. (I have Facebook to interact with my friends, and MySpace to be available to recent students. One thing I have noticed is that the most difficult students I had in class are the first to friend me after they move on to high school.) I think most careful observers think this has actually led to an increase in words-read-per-day, although perhaps a decrease in literary value of what is being read. I teach in an area where 95% qualify for free lunch. Occasionally I will ask after Christmas break about gifts they received. For years, maybe out of a hundred kids I would hear about one or two books. But many kids will receive some kind of interactive electronic device. If we can get them to read something on it, maybe that is a net gain.

  • Angie Dicken says:

    I am glad to say my 8 year old boy is definitely in that 39%. He devours The Boxcar Children books and loves reading any book based on his fave movie. :)
    I still enjoy curling up with a book that smells like a book and feels like a book!! :) I recently played with my sister’s kindle though, and can see how great it would be to have a handy device and download books as you please. I don’t know if I’d ever get anything done!!
    Angie Dicken

  • Caroline says:

    Like others here, I was sadden by how many kids think texting constitutes as reading. Wow. My first instinct is to change that, rather than conform to it.

    I was thrilled to see the great statistic on continuing to read print books. While I love technology, (again, like others here) I love reading an actual, hard-copy book. It’s a different experience, and a pleasing one.

    About this statistic: 56% of 6- to 8-year-olds read frequently (5 to 7 days per week)…
    I wonder if these kids including reading in school or only voluntary reading they completed outside of school assignments. I think that would make a big difference in the impact of that statistic. I am pleased, though, that a majority of kids are reading almost daily.

    And with this statistic: 24% of 15- to 17-year-olds read frequently…
    Again, it makes me wonder… do teenage kids stop reading because they have busier schedules and other interests? Or are the books available to their age group not as intriguing for some reason? My son is little (and LOVES books), and I was an avid reader throughout my school years (and still am now), so I sometimes cannot use my own experiences to relate to the “general public.”

    Thanks for posting these survey results!

  • I’m thrilled that one of my books is available on Kindle, although I prefer reading hard copies myself. But I think there will always be room for both kinds of books.

  • Janet Grant janetgrant says:

    Brian, thanks for pointing out that texting is the 21st-century version of note-passing, which kids obviously are very into!
    Regarding whether the reading percentages include school work, I suspect not since the high school stats are lower than middle grade stats. If school reading were included, high school stats would have gone up. And, by the way, having to read more as homework might be part of the reason the high school numbers are lower.
    An observation I’ve made regarding boys and reading is that my 12-year-old grandson loves to read nonfiction. Fiction, not so much. But school doesn’t give credit for nonfiction books the kids read; so my grandson is forced to read fiction, even though it’s not his preference. I wonder if schools are out of touch with boys’ reading preferences and not communicating that reading ANY book is a good thing. Why do schools devalue nonfiction books in this way? Or is our local school system an exception rather than the rule?

  • Judith Robl says:

    For those who would like boys to read more, you might want to check out Max Elliott Anderson.

    He writes charming books for middle grade boys (up to age 12 or so). My grandson previewed four of his pre-pub books and enjoyed them (several years ago). The side benefit was that grandma got to read them also (they were in my house and any print material in my house is fair game.) I can and do heartily recommend them for boys 8-12 or so.

  • Lynn Dean says:

    Maybe schools downplay the option of non-fiction because they prefer to control the opinions and content presented to impressionable students through the use of textbooks. Texts become the “approved” non-fiction. Fiction is tolerated because it is literature and may engender a love for language arts. If we view education, though, as training for life, we should of course include non-fiction as a tool for lifetime learning.

    As a building designer, I felt nostalgic when my industry transitioned from blueprints (which are an art form in themselves) to digital CAD drawings, but I doubt anyone outside the industry noticed or cared. Why? The format is merely a means to an end. The finished building is what we’re after. I’ve heard for years, “It’s the story that matters.” That’s what the non-writing public is after–a great story. They are unlikely to care much about the format, even if it’s the latest gossip texted on their cellphone.

  • Etta Wilson Etta Wilson says:

    I find it alarming that 39% of kids between 9 and 17 who believe online information is always correct. Just today I heard a debate about the value of anything on Wikipedia which many kids think is a valid research reference. It’s this love of speed and lack of respect for verification that is hard to overcome in maturity–or am I just an old foggy?

  • Lynn Dean says:

    The appeal of a shortcut, whether it’s a get-rich-quick scheme or a belief that the internet (or the newspaper!) is always reliable, is evidence of immature thinking. A sort of alchemy, I guess, and about as successful.

    When I taught a research writing class for high schoolers, I required multiple documentation from a minimum of three types of sources (book, periodical, film, internet, interview, etc.) including at least one original source document. Wikipedia articles were not allowed. I wanted my students to build a healthy skepticism and become aware of many information sources–to learn how to learn. A lot of teachers do similar things, I’m sure.

  • Laurie says:

    Etta,

    You are not old and foggy. Just realistic. Wikipedia is just another tool that flogs the reader with misinformation, just like the news on television. The internet is a vast wealth of info, if the researcher knows how to use it. Kids don’t! Most adults don’t either.

    I think more than 39% of kids believe everything an adult says, everything the media purports, and what their peers tell them. Why wouldn’t they believe sticky Wiki?

    In search of today’s truth, we need to dig. All of us should go back to the way life used to be, with adults looking over the shoulder of children and leading them.

    What gets me is that parents let kids go online without supervision. I wonder what that statistic is? Now that’s a dangerous world!

    My grandsons, 10 and 6, read all the time. They love the book in their hand, the words on paper. I think peer pressure pushes the idea of gadgets like Kindle. Kindle might be nice, but there’s nothing like the smell of paper, the feel of your own individual copy, and the collection of colorful titles staring at you from a shelf.

    My grown daughters live in the world of techno-gadgetry but they still won’t give up their book collections they’ve kept from their childhood.

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