Number of Teenage Readers Declining, Study Reports

Cellphones, tablets and laptops might make it easier for American youth to read but that doesn’t mean they are. A roundup of studies put together by Common Sense Media shows that leisure reading among teens has declined – and drastically.

Nearly half of 17-year-olds say they read for pleasure no more than 1-2 times a year and only 19 percent say they read for fun every day – which is decrease from the reported 31 percent in 1984. Meanwhile, according to the study, 75 percent of families own some type of electronic device that can be used for reading.

The results are striking but not shocking to Jim Steyer, the CEO and founder of Common Sense Media. NPR reports that Steyer has been studying the affects technology has on children, and says that most children have access to e-readers or other electronic devices, and are spending time on them.

“Numerous reports show the increasing use of new technology platforms by kids. It just strikes me as extremely logical that that’s a big factor,” he says.

These electronic devices, however, make it difficult for Mary Kelly, youth librarian for Lyon Township Public Library, to tell if kids are or aren’t reading.

“There are so many more options for teens now,” she says. “In terms of bodies … teens aren’t coming through the door, (but) teen fiction in general has had a surge in popularity.”

Reading proficiency exams collected by the roundup seem to yield results that would suggest that teens are, at least, doing a little reading. Thirty-five percent of fourth graders and just over 35 percent of eighth graders were proficient in reading in 2012, an increase from 10 years ago. The reading proficiency levels among 17-year-olds, however, remained “stagnated” since the 1970s.

To Kelly, kids aren’t reading because they just don’t find it fun anymore.

“I think kids don’t look at reading as a leisure activity anymore. I think that school’s standardized (tests are) sucking the fun out of reading” Kelly says. “That being said, there are still a few die-hard kids that come in to read and really love their library.”

Kids may or may not be reading as much as they used to, but one thing is for certain: A love for reading starts at home. If you notice that your child may not be reading enough, many public libraries, including Lyon Township Public Library, offer youth reading programs that will kick-start your child’s love of the written word.


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