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.

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Photo by Porapak Apichodilok.

Children’s Book Sales Hold Strong

Those of us who are older than Millennials often feel a small amount of distress when we see children playing on phones and tablets and not reading. We wonder if reading is becoming a thing of the past. We fret over how to keep literacy alive and thriving when the competition of video games and electronic entertainment on screens is so prevalent.

Surprisingly, the news on children’s reading is not as bad as we fear. Families today invest a lot in their children. Many young parents are placing parenthood above career and financial success. With such a high value on good parenting, it is no surprise that children’s books are selling well and will most likely continue to sell well in the future.

Nielsen, a company that tracks book purchases and uses the data to help publishers stay abreast of industry trends, reports that following in regards to sales of children’s books:

  • The U.S. book market is stable, with little change year over year.
  • The children’s book market shows more growth than the overall U.S. book market. While the overall book market has grown 33 percent since 2004, the children’s book market has grown 52 percent growth since 2004, with a four percent compound annual growth rate.
  • Children’s book formats have seen growth since 2013–2014, with the most rapidly growing formats board books and boxed sets.
  • Religion is a category that is growing in both children’s fiction and nonfiction year over year.
  • The age group five to eight years accounts for almost 40 percent of children’s book purchases.

This last point—that books for 5- to 8-year-olds account for almost half of all book purchases—is good news for those who produce picture books. Picture books are generally designed for four- to eight-year-olds. So, if you are or have published a picture book, be encouraged by these statistics.

In fact, even though children are spending so much time on screens, it appears that they still prefer to read print books. Nielsen’s studies have found that only four percent of children’s fiction is sold in digital format. This means 96 percent of children’s fiction books are sold as print books.

Children need engaging books that point them to their creator. The news that children’s religious book sales are growing is heartening. The fact that the vast majority of children’s books are still purchased in print format means that the demand for print picture books is strong.

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Five Benefits of Children’s Books

November is Children’s Picture Book Month!

childrens-books

Fortunately, the children’s book market in the U.S. is robust. Nielson recently held their third conference on children’s books. They published some of the data that was shared at the conference. Here is some of note:

  • The children’s book market in the United States has grown about 52 percent since 2005.
  • The leading categories in juvenile fiction are media tie-ins, holiday and celebration-related books, along with comics and graphic novels.
  • Specialization and niche targeting appear to be key factors in success with children’s books.
  • YouTube takes over as the number one activity draw when kids in the United States turn 13 or 14, with books falling fast away at that point in the activities of surveyed children.

If you are an author of or publish children’s books the good news is that the children’s book market is strong. With November being Children’s Picture Book Month, you can take this month and next to highly promote your books. After all, November highlights children’s books and December is a great month to promote your children’s books as great gifts.

Remind your audience that giving children books as gift is offering them more than just a book. After all, reading:

  1. Helps wire the child’s brain for learning.
  2. Helps ensure academic success.
  3. Enhances concentration and discipline.
  4. Improves language skills for communication.
  5. Ignites the child’s creativity and imagination.

If you have a Christian children’s book, then your book provides the added benefit of introducing the child to their creator. A benefit that has eternal impact. After all, that is why my husband and I produced Baby Bible Board Books. We wanted infants and toddlers to learn about and connect with Jesus.

If you are an author or publisher of children’s books, take advantage of this time of year to promote these titles. If you are not an author of children’s books, then be sure to gift books to the children in your life this holiday season.

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March is Read Aloud Month

Do you write books for children? March is National Reading Awareness Month and Read Aloud Month. ReadAloud.org is a group that is the most active in bringing awareness to the importance of reading aloud to young children with their Read Aloud 15 Minutes campaign.

Read Aloud

ReadAloud.org recently conducted an in-depth survey on whether parents are heeding the advice of experts to read aloud to their children at least 15 minutes a day. Reading aloud has an extremely positive impact on brain development.

Sadly, ReadAloud’s study found that less than half of the parents surveyed (just 46%) say their child is read books aloud at home every day, and only 34% say their child is read books aloud at home daily for 15 minutes.

Parents reported the following reasons for not reading aloud to their children:

• 40% said they “can’t find the time in the day.”
• Four in ten parents said it’s easier to find video games than books for their children.
• Half of the parents feel books for their child’s age are too expensive.
• One-third of the parents who don’t read to their children said their children won’t sit still long enough.

The Read Aloud 15 Minutes campaign believes that reading aloud to children between birth and 8 years of age is extremely important. During this age span, there is a unique and fleeting opportunity for parents to foster language and social-emotional connections, to expand knowledge and imagination, and to stimulate brain networks that make reading and learning possible. Consistent reading aloud provides a simple and ideal way to do these things.

If you write and produce books for children, I encourage you to use the information and these survey results provided by ReadAloud.org to engage parents and promote your books. You can do the following to encourage parents to read aloud to their children and to use your books to do so:

  1. Educate your target audience about the benefits of reading aloud to children.
  2. Provide them tips on ways to work in reading to their children into their day, even in short segments. They can read during bath time, while waiting for an appointment, or even in line at the grocery story.
  3. Provide discounts and specials on purchasing your books for parents so they perceive your books as affordable and buy them.
  4. Set up readings of your books in your local bookstores and libraries and encourage parents to bring their children to hear the story.

Remember, the more value you provide to your potential readers, the more likely they will engage with you and purchase your book. Your Christian children’s book is not just a story for young children, it is a tool that parents can use to teach their children language and increase their ability to learn, as well as point them to their Creator.

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