Teenagers stop reading for pleasure as they age

Why do teens read less for pleasure as they age?
Why do teens read less for pleasure as they age? Photo: Getty

Audio books and digital devices are helping kids to sound out words and read but what effect is the digital revolution having on teens and reading?

A research brief from not for profit organisation, Common Sense, found that the amount of time teens spend reading for pleasure has declined.

The report, based in the US, reviewed and summarised key findings on children and reading.

By comparing and contrasting previous studies, researchers found that the time spent reading increases with age, that is, until they hit their teens and it “decreases sharply”, says the report

According to Common Sense Media’s 2013 national parent survey (2013), time spent reading or being read to for a zero to eight year old was 18 minutes a day on average. This time increases to 29 minutes a day for children two and under and again to 32 minutes for children five to eight.

But this time drops significantly as kids get older.

“Time spent with books goes down from 33 minutes a day among 8 to 10-year-olds to 21 minutes a day among 15 to 18-year-olds,” the report said.

In fact, it would seem that kids aren’t reading for fun as much as they get older.

In 2013, Scholastic’s survey of youth found: “the percent of children who report reading for fun five to seven times a week drops from 48% among 6 to 8-year-olds to 39% among 9 to 11-year-olds, 28% among 12 to 14-year-olds, and 24% among 15 to 17-year-olds.”


Kaiser’s most recent data indicates the same trend.

While the study says there has been a drop in how often children read for fun among all ages, “the drop has been especially sharp among middle and high-school students”.

“In particular, the percent of 13 and 17-year-olds who report ‘never’ or ‘only occasionally’ reading for fun has increased substantially during the past 30 years,” said researchers.

Interestingly, the past ten to 15 years there has been a revolution in electronic reading.

“Among older teens (16 to 17 years old), a November 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center (Zickuhr, 2013) found that among those who had read a book in the past year, 28% had done so at least once on an ereader (this compared with 13% who had done so the previous year).

While many children now have access to electronic devices the study is not suggesting teens are reading less because of an increase in digital devices.

Although CEO and co-founder of Common Sense Media, Jim Steyer would disagree.

"First of all, most children now have access to e-readers, or other smart electronic devices like phones and tablets," Steyer told National Public Radio.

He said: "And they're spending time on that. 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."

What do you think? Is there a link between an increase in technology and a decline in teens wanting to read?