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Reading for pleasure declines sharply among kids

Reading For Pleasure Declines Sharply Among Kids

With the advent of smart phones, e-readers and micro-blogging sites like Twitter, you'd be right to assume kids are reading less than in previous decades. But a study released Monday shows just how far book reading has fallen.

Conducted by Common Sense Media, the report shows 45 percent of 17-year-olds read for pleasure only once or twice a year. And 27 percent say they never read for fun, more than twice as high as that figure was 30 years ago.

Now, Common Sense Media only focused on traditional books, not taking into account reading social media posts or text articles online.

With that in mind, the study also found girls were more like to read daily than boys, 30 percent to 18 percent. Only 19 percent of respondents reported they read every day by the time they turn 17, down from 53 percent of 9-year-olds.

Time's Charlotte Altar blamed the age decline on a mix of new technology and more school work, writing "Yes, the teenagers have more Instagrams to post, but they also have more homework to do."

The study also highlighted some sizable racial disparities in the data. While 75 percent of white children were read to every day, 66 percent of black children and 50 percent of Hispanic children received the same treatment.

So why the declines? Common Sense says mobile devices might be to blame. A previous report by the group showed 17 percent use a phone or tablet every day. (Via Youtube / Mike Wilson Tunes)

Common Sense Media's CEO, Jim Steyer, even tells NPR that his ten-year-old son was doing "less and less reading, and more and more attracted to some of the digital media platforms that he has access to."

And the line between reading and just having fun on a tablet can be thin. As the report says, "'Reading' used to mean sitting down with a book and turning pages as a story unfolded. Today it may mean sitting down with a screen and touching words to have them read aloud." (Via YouTube / Goodreader )

With the technological trend, the almighty paperback is in trouble. In 2012, a study from Scholastic showed only 58 percent of kids were loyal to paper books over ebooks, down from 66 percent in 2010.

But some see tablets as a potential learning tool for kids. In January, a researcher told The Guardian that when they observed kids using tablets to write and draw, "It was a form of mastery for those individuals that hadn't previously been accessible to them without a lot of help from other people. ... There was something about the activities that captivated all the children intensely and motivated them to carry on."

When NPR asked two schoolchildren what they did instead of reading, their answers were no surprise: Netflix, Hulu and lots of time on their phones.

Join the discussion

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Evelyn Valerie May 13 2014 at 5:17 PM

The problem is that everything in this world moves at such a quick pace.....kids don't want to take the time to enjoy a book. I would still rather hold pages I had to turn than
a piece of metal in my hands.

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athirtyacre May 13 2014 at 12:14 PM

I feel the problem today is that books these days aren't interesting. Schools make kids read classics, but they don't encourage reading books you're interested in. I remember in school that when a book caught the attention of everyone in the class, everyone did much better on the tests and essays and projects, and sometimes you'd catch kids talking about it in the halls. But when a book was too boring or not as interesting, you'd have kids going online and looking up the plot of the book just so they didn't have to read it. Classics will be classics, but if you ruin books for kids by making them read books they're not interested in, they won't want to read books they may be interested in. Ruining the experience by forcing them to read what they don't enjoy.

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weilunion athirtyacre May 13 2014 at 3:15 PM

I am sorry, as a teacher you are wrong. There are few classics read in schools. Short passages to pass tests is what is read

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starsndots May 13 2014 at 12:17 PM

Make 'em get off the damn I pods and get back to teaching school. Even the teachers' handwriting looks like some 8 yr. old penned it. When was the last time any student did a book report? And why are precious school dollars being spent on tablets? Pencil & paper should be just fine, kids learn computing on their own and don't need school budgets wasted on teaching what they can learn for free.

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weilunion starsndots May 13 2014 at 3:14 PM

If we had strong teacher unions like we did in the past we could do this. But education is no longer a profession, it is an industry for Wall St.

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Suzanne May 13 2014 at 12:26 PM

I think that the current generation of students are facing a far different world...much of their information comes in electronic media - so their comfort level in using the same media for their entertainment is very high. While I would wish for every child to get the same pleasure from reading that I do, I'm sure many of them would wish for our generation to be more tech savvy and open to other advancements that they are learning to use and build.

It's easy to dismiss the generation as being too attached to their mobile devices, but frankly, it was our generation that has developed them, built them, provided them, and given them a window to the world and access to information far beyond what was provided to us in our childhood.

I see so many young people today who are much more aware of things happening in the world around them, who are amazing critical thinkers, and have the means to question and learn about the world around them.

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weilunion Suzanne May 13 2014 at 3:13 PM

You must be blind. Few Americans question anything other than 'how much does it cost'

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ptrckhardin May 13 2014 at 12:52 PM

Well I wonder why?! The schools are giving us so much homework that we don't have time to read for fun.

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3 replies
kmcc895370 May 13 2014 at 1:15 PM

"I still love books. you can't really put a book on the internet. three companies have offered to put my books on the net, and I said, 'if you can make something that has a nice jacket, nice paper with that nice smell, then we'll talk.' All the computer can give you is a manuscript. people don't want to read manuscripts. They want to read books. Books smell good. they look good. You can press it to your bosom. You can carry it in your pocket."

-Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451

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flameshoter1111 kmcc895370 May 13 2014 at 2:18 PM

the younger generation likes the smell of technology learning. i agree with them. i would rather have technology then trying to get some oxygen around this place.

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dougie.smith1 May 13 2014 at 1:22 PM

As a college student I already have to read so much for class. In my free time its often the last thing I want to do. Its kind of sad, but its at the point where reading is more work than fun.

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weilunion dougie.smith1 May 13 2014 at 3:10 PM

Yes, this is called being imprisoned to read what the rulers say you must read. Edducation is over in American schools, time to take to the streets

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nkowalak May 13 2014 at 1:25 PM

I guess you have to be old to appreciate First Edition books. I had to be in bed for nearly two years and that's when I became an avid reader again. My son reads so much, hard back books, that his local library receives his bounty. If stacks of books is a problem for you, then the readers are your thing, personally, I'd rather turn the pages of a hard back book than hold the I-Pad.

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flameshoter1111 nkowalak May 13 2014 at 2:16 PM

i'm old compared to younger kids. i'm only 19 yrs old. I do not read. i get plenty of reading looking at people's ridiculous comments. but poor grammar is so common. there is so many ways for english. people go into highschool and still do not understand what pronouns are. What is the point of reading if there is no fundamentals memorized?

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weilunion flameshoter1111 May 13 2014 at 3:10 PM

You do not learn what you memorize and you do not memorize what you learn. Did you memorize how to talk, walk or socialize?

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mmcraig May 13 2014 at 1:33 PM

My grandkids hate reading because they are forced to do so much of it through their schools' AR programs!

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cchandh May 13 2014 at 12:10 PM

We're dumbing down our students in an effort to avoid upsetting them (or their parents). Guess what? When they grow up and fail at college and then at life because they can't compete with those that DO read proficiently, they'll end up paying the cost of that decision not to 'force' them to read better. This is a life skill, not a wicket, that these kids need to go through.

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foubabou cchandh May 13 2014 at 12:14 PM

But college is dumbing down too. And when they fail at life they can blame it on someone else. Everything is always someone else's fault.

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weilunion foubabou May 13 2014 at 3:16 PM

Thank the for profit college sector and the phony 'distant learning' which distances people from learning

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