New parent-child study explores views of electronic reading

By Hilary Strahota

Oct 7, 2010

A national study of children and families shows the growing transformation of kids’ definition of reading in the digital age. The 2010 Kids and Family Reading Report, conducted by Scholastic and Harrison Group, surveyed children ages 6-17 and their parents on the topic of reading in the 21st Century.

The most alarming item gleaned from the research was that one in four kids thinks that texting with friends counts as reading. The study also found that the time kids spend reading books for fun declines while the time spent online for fun and using a cell phone to text or talk increases. And the fact that 39 percent of children ages 9-17 agree with the statement, “The information I find online is always correct” suggests a higher need for the development of critical thinking skills.

“Clearly there is a big role for parents and teachers to play in helping kids become better critical thinkers today starting at an early age given that the study found that among children age 9-11, nearly half believe everything they read online,” said Francie Alexander, Chief Academic Officer, Scholastic.

From the parents’ perspective, those surveyed expressed concern that the use of electronic and digital devices negatively affects the time kids spend reading books (41 percent), doing physical activities (40 percent), and engaging with family (33 percent). Yet, the study results indicated that technology could be a positive motivator to get kids reading as 57 percent of kids age 9-17 said they are interested in reading an eBook, and a third of children age 9-17 say they would read more books for fun if they had access to eBooks on an electronic device. That suggests that thee-book market will continue to grow, especially with the finding that many of the parents surveyed plan to buy an eBook in the next year and will encourage their children to read using that device.

“While parents understandably have concerns about the amount of time their kids are spending on electronic or digital devices, eBooks offer a way to get more kids reading and kids reading more,” said Alexander. “If we can meet kids where they are and get a third of all kids, many of them struggling readers, to spend more time reading for fun on eBooks, that additional time spent building fluency and vocabulary will not only help them become more proficient at reading, but will help prepare them to tackle more complex texts that they will encounter in high school and college.”

Another key finding indicates that the power of choice is a key factor in raising a reader. Nine out of ten children say that they are more likely to finish book they choose themselves. Some children cited that their parents limited their use of technology as a way to encourage more frequent reading. They study showed that this tactic was most effective on children ages 9-11, and that for older kids, parents tried having more interesting books around the home.

The full 2010 The Kids & Family Reading Report is available online.