Kids And Young Adults Don’t Read Books for Fun — They’ve Got Smartphones

Three times as many kids as in the 1980s just don’t read books

Photo: Kaori Ando/Corbis

Years ago, smartphones, computers and televisions were less common or nonexistent. On a rainy day, a bored teenager had little choice but to pick up a book and hunker down to some reading. According to a new study by Common Sense Media, however, over the past 30 years the numbers of teens who chose to read books for pleasure has precipitously declined. 

Here's Time with a breakdown of how reading patterns among kids and young adults has changed over the past three decades: 

In 1984, 8% of 13-year-olds and 9% of 17-year-olds said they “never” or “hardly ever” read for pleasure. In 2014, that number had almost tripled, to 22% and 27%. Girls also tend to read more than boys, as 18% of boys say they read daily, while 30% of girls do.

Today, nearly half of all 17-year-olds said they willingly picked up a book only once or twice a year, Time adds. In comparison, over 60 percent of teens surveyed back in 1985 said they read at least once a week. 

The authors believe this steady decline in young readership is largely due to technology. As Time puts it, "kids would rather text than read." They also point out that parents are reading out loud to their kids less than they used to. Fifteen years ago, two- to seven-year-olds enjoyed about 45 minutes of daily reading, but by last year, that reading budget had fallen to just 30 minutes per day. 

The authors wonder if e-reading might help to reverse the trend. While more young people are turning to digital sources to get their reading fix, whether or not Kindles and Nooks will actually cause an uptick in readership is yet to be seen. 

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