NEWS INDEPTH

Are children and teens reading for pleasure?

A recent piece of market research undertaken by Book Marketing Ltd suggests that reading is still a leading activity for some 88% of children - although that falls steeply among teenagers.

The findings were shared at the recent Bookseller Children's Conference.

Reading came second only to watching television and DVD's, and was ahead of other activities such as sports, going out and playing. In contrast to the high percentage reading, some 48% liked to play games and consoles.

Some 2,000 children nationally aged naught to 17 years, or their parents, took part in the research.

However, despite this good news, the figures also showed that one fifth of younger children are, at best, occasional readers who read less than once a week.

It also indicated a steep decline in the reading habit among teenagers says Steve Bohme, research director at BML.

The peak reading age was found to be five to ten years for both boys and girls; after this, the reading habit declines rapidly. For those aged 14 to 17 years, 57% are 'occasional' readers, reading less than once a week.

"By the time they reach secondary school, children are less into reading, boys especially," says Bohme. "They say they have too much homework, they don't think reading is cool and they have other things they would rather do." These include watching TV and other 'static' activities. "They are not going out to do sports or see friends and family."

By the time they are 11 years old, young people are engaging more with technology. Visiting YouTube, social websites and texting takes up just as much time as reading and once they are 13, technology leads.

This is especially true for boys, who are more likely to be gaming than reading. "They are more likely than girls to be spending time on consoles and apps, and playing games online," says Bohme.

Keeping teens engaged with reading could come down to new technology, he adds. Occasional readers are less likely to have tried e-readers, the research found, although they would like to.

While laptops and tablet devices were more popular among younger children, whose parents would share the devices, children aged eight years upwards were more interested in dedicated e-readers such as Kindles. Teens are also more likely to be using social networking to find out about books.

e-Readers can also encourage younger children to read more according to research from Kobo, which has developed its own e-reader. Kobo questioned 2,000 parents who buy e-books for children to find out how the children's e-book market is developing.

It found that ebooks can increase the time children spend reading. Among non-independent readers, some 8% read more on an e-reader as opposed to a book, up from just under half an hour a day to 30 to 59 minutes a day.

Among independent readers, 17% of children moved up a tier in the amount of time spent reading. Of the 30% who were reading less than half an hour a day, that feel to 20%. Most then read from half an hour to one hour a day, and there was also an increase in those reading more than two hours a day.

While e-book sales of children's books currently account for only around 5% of printed sales, that figure is growing quickly and most publishers expect it to grow dramatically over the next few years.

11/10/2012Are children and teens reading for pleasure?
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