Are Children Still Reading?

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.

Sales of Children's Books Have Grown

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.

Books Still Make Great Gifts

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.

Related Posts:
What Every Children’s Author Needs to Know
Authors Profit By Encouraging Children to Read
Promote Your Books as Christmas Gifts

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Photo by Porapak Apichodilok.

My Rant

The other weekend, my 10-year-old daughter accompanied me to the grocery store. The girl loves to read. Often, she brings a book with her on errands.

As my daughter wheeled the cart around the store after me, she also read her book (she takes after her mother in the multi-tasking department). A father stopped me and said, “You should write a book about how to get your kids to read while they help you instead of just look at a digital screen.” (Of course, this gentleman had no idea I was an author). I thanked him for the compliment.

As we left the store, my daughter said, “Mom, are you going to write that book?” My response to her was that many parenting books have already been written and that getting children to read rather than play with digital devices is part of a parent’s job.

I truly don’t think a book would help the issue.

A recent study in the UK by the National Literacy Trust showed that three in 10 British children live in households that do not contain a single book. An additional one in 10 children live in homes with 10 or fewer books. On the other hand, 85% or 17 out of 20 children owned a game console and 81% (basically eight out of 10) have a mobile phone.

I am sure the statistics for the United States are similar.

The problem is many people don’t value books. I can count on one hand the number of times my children have received a book as a birthday present at one of their birthday parties. When I attend baby showers, rarely does anyone give the expectant mother books for her baby. I love to give books at baby showers. After all, my husband and I created Baby Bible Board Books to teach the youngest hearts about Jesus.

I don’t believe that digital books are helping children read more. Thus far the research indicates that people who already value and read books are the ones using e-readers to read; they are simply switching mediums.

The love of reading must be taught. Playing video games is easier on the brain than reading. We are creatures of comfort. We will choose the easy road over the hard one, given the choice. Children are no different. Parents must step up to the plate and create an atmosphere in their homes that values reading. If this does not happen, I fear for the future of our nation.

 

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Are Picture Books Endangered?

I recently read a couple interesting articles that discussed how picture books are losing their appeal. Retailers are selling fewer pictures books; as a result, publishers are publishing less of these books.

Each of these articles quoted retailers stating that they thought the decline came from parents pushing their children to read chapter books at younger and younger ages. One retailer said that parents were buying Stuart Little for their four-year-olds instead of picture books. She felt it this behavior came from a cultural push for children to start reading early so that they would excel in school.

I read another study conducted of 1,000+ children and their parents by Scholastic. This study found that children between the ages of six and 17 spend less time reading for fun and more time going online and using their phones for fun.

Reading among children is declining. Many argue that this is because there are so many electronic gadgets, as well as computers and the Internet, to entertain kids, so they don’t gravitate toward reading in their spare time.

Reading is a very different skill from playing electronic games. Reading requires extended attention and concentration on something that does not have much sensory input (compared to video games). I find it odd that, in an era of electronic gadgets with colorful graphics, parents are skipping picture books and pushing their kids to read chapter books at a young age.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the kids look at fantastic, colorful pictures while reading to engage children and encourage them to read?

Just maybe the decline in parents gravitating toward picture books for their children is part of the reason children are spending less time reading for fun. After all, I think picture books help cement the beauty of reading for young children.

As a Christian, the decline in reading in children alarms me. For, if children do not develop the skill of reading for pleasure and learning, then, they won’t learn to read the Bible for themselves.

Reading God’s word is important for Christians. Without the ability to read and delve into God’s word, people remain baby Christians, unable to effectively handle this war that we fight against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of the dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

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