The great decline of books… and a possible cure?

books in a heap

I’ve recently discussed in a previous post, how “Reading to your kids makes them smarter!“. Now, that we know the benefits of reading books, let’s find out how many children still actually read them.

(Hmm…you probably think you know the answer, don’t you? Well, you should read on, there are some surprises ahead…)

How many children actually read books today?

Let’s start with what most parents suspect already: Less and less children read print books these days.

In fact, a survey of 2,000 British children and parents conducted by Nielsen Book in June 2013, found that in just one year (2012-2013), children’s reading habits have changed dramatically:

  • The percentage of children aged 11-17 who don’t read books at all, more than doubled – rising from 13% to 27%.
  • The percentage of children who used to read a book occasionally – dropped from 45% to 38%.
  • Some good news still remain – 32% of children still read books for pleasure on a daily basis.

The above numbers are in line with book industry figures showing an 8% year-on-year drop in (printed) books bought for children.

These numbers are simple averages showing a growing trend. But, the decline in reading is evident in other research, suggesting that the time that children dedicate to reading books, is drastically declining.

If children don’t read books, what do they do instead?

Only three activities increased in percentage between 2012 -2013, according to the same Nielsen study: Playing “game apps”, watching videos on YouTube and texting.

It makes sense doesn’t it? Many kids have smartphones at an early age, and most houses (western countries) have tablets. Kids can easily install game apps and get their choice of videos on YouTube using these devices.

Smartphones and tablets have become agents of change, diverting kids’ attention from other activities, such as reading books, to those that can be accessed instantly using a handy device.

It’s not just book reading that is suffering from these changes, other traditional activities like playing outside, hobbies and art, are also being dropped.

Did we lose the battle on reading books?

Not necessarily. There is hope and its messengers are eBooks.

We cannot abolish progress, not even when it comes in the form of smartphones and tablets… But we can use it to achieve our goal – to help our children read more books.

The “Kids + E-Reading Trends 2012 to 2013 study” conducted by PlayCollective and Digital Book World, this year (2014), brings us the really good news:

67% of U.S. children aged 2-13 are now reading eBooks, a rise of 54%, from last year.

Let’s stop for a minute and think about these numbers: a rise of 54% in e-reading in just one year!

In the words of Paul Levine, co-CEO of PlayCollective: “E-reading has reached and passed a tipping point, it is becoming a normal part of kids lives and becoming habitual.”

More numbers to make you happy:

  • Kids’ e-reading continues to grow sharply, with two-thirds of children 13 and under now reading digital books. 92% of those kids are reading eBooks at least once a week.
  • Daily e-reading has increased across all ages. 50% of children aged 2-5 are now enjoying digital reading daily, and 44% of older kids doing the same.
  • 48% of the children have expressly asked to purchase a print version of an eBook they own and 54% of kids asked for an eBook of a physical book they own.
  • Tablets remain the preferred e-reading device for kids overall

Call me optimistic but I call this a revolution! Maybe our kids didn’t give up on reading books, maybe they’ve just rediscovered them in a different format and are building new habits to fit.

My advice:

Move with the times, get your kids acquainted with eBooks, if they get used to them, there is a good chance that eBooks will become a part of their lives, just as printed books have been part of our lives for so many years.


Children’s reading shrinking due to apps, games and YouTube, theGuardian

New Digital Book World Report on Kids and E-Reading, DBW (Digital Book Wire)


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