Monday, June 16, 2008

Kids Read for Fun -- The Scholastic Report

girl reading

Last week Scholastic, the global children's publishing, education and media company, released a study on Kids and reading.  The report is a classic good news/bad news story.


The good news:

  • 68% of children think reading for pleasure is extremely important.
  • *2% of kids 5-8 "love to read.
  • 90% say that reading is important if you want to get into a good college.
  • 66% of tweens and teens (9-17) have extended their reading experience via the internet.
  • 79% of kids age 5-17 are going online; 33% go on line each day
  • Fully two in three children believe that within the next 10 years, most books which are read for fun will be read digitally – either on a computer or on another kind of electronic device.

The bad news:

  • Reading frequency declines after age 8.
  • Parents under-estimate the degree to which kids have trouble finding books they like and enjoy.
  • By age 17 only 21% of kids think that reading is fun or important.
  • Only 40% of parent with older teens think it is important for their kids to read "for fun".
  • 62% of parents say they have a hard time finding information about books their kids would enjoy reading.

The thing I find the most interesting about the study is the portion about kids, reading and technology.   As they look to the future most kids see technology as inevitable.  Two-thirds say that they think that most of the books they will read in ten years will be electronic.  And they are enthusiastic about being able to tag and share favorite parts of books with others. 

And yet two-thirds of the kids surveyed say that no matter what they can do online they will always was to read books printed on paper.

This seems to be a contradictory statement -- they know they will be reading and sharing books electronically but they will always want to read on paper. 

Somehow this doesn't stack up.  Makes me wonder where the disconnect is happening.  Is it a case of kids repeating what they hear from parents and teachers?  Is it a case of a woefully backward education system?  Is this finding a result of skewed survey results -- the report was written by the biggest children's publisher in the world?

I suspect there is no way to answer these questions.  I suppose that in the end, these results are a reflection of our entire society's attitudes about technology and reading.  It will be fascinating to watch how attitudes and ideas evolve over the coming years. 

1 comment:

Al Cima said...

Interesting contradiction you point out about kids saying they know they will read and share electronic books in ten years, but they will always want to read paper books.

But I don't think it's really a contradiction. I think what the kids mean is that, sure they love doing all that online electronic reading because there's tons of stuff easy to get to and ebooks are easy to carry and fast to order. But the kids are also saying that paper books are really cool too. They would never want to lose the ability to see pictures so wonderfully printed on fine paper. This is an instinctive desire in almost all readers.

I do an enormous amount of online reading. But I've noticed that electronic reading, whether on a computer screen or an ebook device, makes me tired. So I can read on screen all day and when I burn out and feel that I cannot read another single word, I pick up the paper book that I happen to be in the middle of and suddenly my reading energy returns. Electronic devices no matter how user friendly still have a subtle draining effect. Perhaps they still make us slightly nervous. Perhaps they are simply too precise. Fuzzy error present in analog things like books is relaxing. This is partly why I think Amazon's Kindle is doing well. It is a bit awkward and odd looking and I think that is associated with the fuzzy error of analog things. So I think that an ebook reader must be a bit analog, messy, odd. Make it a little freakish. Throw in more leather. More soft rubbery parts. Let people change it to fit themselves.

Another thing, what's one of the great things about books? You can bend them. Even with hardbacks you can grab a hunk of pages and bend them. I do it all the time while I read. I gives me the feel of the book itself. So, make bendable things on ebook readers. Let people grab and bend and squeeze. Then watch. They'll buy lots of them.

This is what the kids are telling you.


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