Reading is a Tough Sell for Kids in Today’s World

I always encourage parents to squeeze out time for their children to read something they enjoy. Reading for pleasure will not only make them better readers, but also propel them into adulthood as lovers of stories.

A new report by Common Sense Media shows what a difficult goal that is in our always-on world. Their scholarly study (MEDIA USE BY TWEENS AND TEENS) surveyed 2600 tweens (8-12 years) and teens (13-18). The full research report can be seen on their web site after sharing your email address.

The small slice I focused on was a comparison in enjoyment of four types of media use: Video games, Social media, Music, and Reading. The latter was defined as time spent reading “for your own enjoyment” and not for homework or a school assignment. The results are eye opening though for many of us not surprising:

Enjoy this activity a lot (tweens)     Enjoy this activity a lot (teens)

Video Games  (M=71%; F=34%)                       (M=62%; F= 20%)

Social Media   (M=7%; F=18%)                         (M=29%; F= 44%)

Music              (M=45%; F=64%)                       (M=66%; F= 80%)

Reading          (M=33%; F=50%)                       (M=19%; F= 41%)

There is a significant drop in the reading category from tweens to teens, whereas the opposite happens with Social Media and Music. The drop in the boy’s reading  from 1 out of 3 enjoying reading a lot to less than 1 out of 5 is especially troublesome.

The answer to why this happens is apparent from these two short videos from Common Sense Media.

Parents, teachers, and writers are up against a force that is not going to go away.

What do you think?

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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7 Responses to Reading is a Tough Sell for Kids in Today’s World

  1. diegosdragon says:

    All it takes is the right book. The Fifth Estate by Robin Moore turned me into a life-long reader 🙂

    • Or for me it was the right sequence of teachers, reading me stories that took me to other places. When they stopped reading when I reached 7th grade or so, I decided it was up to me to take over that task.

  2. I wouldn’t want to raise a child at this time. These videos concern me because of the lack of interaction. Of course, we don’t know whether the kids are involved in sports and other activities. Hopefully so. But, the videos make you realize how isolated kids are becoming. The kids didn’t mention whether they read or not. A really good book would help — and perhaps school helps here, But i can’t help wondering if we are raising a generation of kids who won’t know how to have a conversation and communicate in social situations? I can’t imagine kids that age having so many devices.

    • I agree. The study also averaged daily pleasure reading time for this group and it ranged from 23 minutes (Teen male) to 33 minutes daily (Teen female). The tweens were 27 and 31 minutes respectively.

  3. As a parent, I always thought having Sustained Silent Reading Time during English class was a waste of potential teaching time. My older two children read for pleasure, and I didn’t see why they needed to spend time reading in class.

    My youngest, however, is a very reluctant reader. I recently saw him with a Kenneth Oppel book, and when I asked him (ever so casually!) why he was reading it, he said it was only because he had to have a book for reading time in class. But he reluctantly admitted it was a pretty good book! So yay for sustained silent reading!

    I share a lot of parents’ worries about all this “screen time,” but at the same time I don’t think it’s all bad. There is positive social interaction on social media; there are games that engage the imagination and require cognitive skills; it’s possible to learn a lot of cool stuff on You Tube! If my son wasn’t involved with other things like band, then I would probably be more worried.

    I do think there are things you get from reading that you can’t get from any other activity, so I’m still hoping for That Book that hooks him and turns him into a reader. Or, failing that, any book that interests him enough for him to finish it!

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