Generation Z, those children born after 1995, are digital natives. The first generation to grow up with ready access to the Internet, smartphones, tablets, and social media, concern has been raised about this generation’s short attention span and disinterest in reading.
Interestingly, the rumors of the demise of reading with Generation Z may be exaggerated. The American Association of Publishers (AAP) reports that sales of Children’s and Young Adult books have grown over the past five years. Specifically, unit sales for Children’s and Young Adult nonfiction grew 17.8 percent.
A study by Scholastic and YouGov in 2017 found that 86 percent of Canadian children aged 6-17 years old were reading or had finished reading a book for fun recently. Another study by Common Sense Media in 2015 of U.S. children found one in four tweens and one in five teens reported reading for pleasure regularly. Both studies found that the majority of these children read print books (67% in Canada and 83% in the United States).
While it is good news that Generation Z is reading, we know that overall reading has decreased in the past few decades. One study on young people’s reading habits over the last 50 years summarized in “The Rise of Digital Media, the Decline of TV, and the (Near) Demise of Print.” cited a depressing finding. There has been a decline of daily reading of some form of print—whether magazine, book, etc.—from 60 percent in the late 1970s to 12 percent today. The authors use the notion of “displacement theory” to explain this decline—82 percent of young people use social media today (not to mention video games), which more than likely displaces time they might formerly have given to reading.
If you are a children’s author, these studies hold both good news and sad news. The good news is that Generation Z is still reading, and that they prefer print books. The sad news is that reading continues to fall wayside to other forms of entertainment.
What can you as a children’s author do about this? I have two suggestions.
1. Help create a love of reading in children.
Studies show that children with classroom libraries are more likely to be frequent readers. Yet, only 43% of school-age children have access to a classroom library. You can be part of the solution. Volunteer to help build a classroom library for a teacher at a local Christian school. Donate some of your books as well as other age-appropriate books the teacher and kids are interested in.
2. Promote your books as great gifts.
Studies show that busy Millennial moms like online gift guides. In fact, some big box retailers like Toys R Us have gone out of business because many Millennials prefer to shop online. If you are a children’s author, put together an online Christmas gift guide for moms. Offer a range of gift ideas for the age-range your books target, and be sure to include your books in the guide.
Whether you are a children’s author, a young adult author, or an author of adult books, helping increase literacy and reading in children is a good cause to participate in. After all, children grow up to be adults, and you want to have adults read your books in years to come.
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Photo by Porapak Apichodilok.