What Are Kids Reading?

by Emma Cueto

There's a lot of talk about how "kids today just don't read," but it turns out that's not true. In fact, according to Scholastic's fifth Kids and Family Reading Report, fully half of all kids age 6 to 17 are currently reading a book for fun, and 83 percent say they enjoy being read to by parents. As if we didn't already know to automatically distrust anything that comes after "kids today."

According to the Scholastic report, kids of all age groups are more likely to enjoy books that they are able to choose for themselves. So what sorts of books are kids looking for? Kids of all ages are most likely to look for books that can make them laugh. They are also much less likely than their parents to want books featuring potential role models — more than half of parents would like their kids to be reading books that provide good role models, whereas only 43 percent of kids are looking for characters they want to be like.

Interestingly, only about 17 percent of kids say they they specifically look for books about characters that look like themselves, though younger children are far more likely to look for this than older kids. However, as kids get older they do become increasingly likely to look for books that are about experiences similar to their own. They also become much more interested in books featuring romance, and much, much more interested in books to help them forget about real life for a while — 42 percent of kids between the ages of 15 and 17 list this as something to look for versus only 10 percent of kids aged 6 to 8.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the data from the report, though, is the differences in behavior among kids identified as "frequent readers" (kids who read for fun 5-7 days per week) and "infrequent readers" (kids who read for fun less than one day per week). As you might expect, frequent readers tend to read more books per year — in the age 6 to 11 range, frequent readers finish 43 books a year; infrequent readers only 21. But fascinatingly, that gap only gets wider as kids get older. By the time kids are in the 12 to 17 age range, frequent readers read an average of 39 books annually, while infrequent readers finish just four.

In other words, if you read a lot while you're young, you'll probably keep reading. If you don't read much while you're young, most likely you'll eventually practically stop reading at all.

Does this explain why some adults don't read at all? Maybe so. If lack of reading as a child is the culprit, there's fortunately a fairly easy fix: 73 percent of kids say that they would read more if they could find more books that they like. And since this survey has been kind enough to give us a clue as to what types of books those might be, we should get on it!

Image: <cleverCl@i®ê>, Department of Foreign Aff/flickr