The Harry Potter series is wildly entertaining, but so is Angry Birds, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube Justin Bieber re-enactments, texting, Halo, The Disney Channel, Transformers 3, and a consumer flying drone.
Books have a lot more competition these days, and a new study from Nielsen Books suggests that digital fun is starting to crowd out the habits of occasional readers. Specifically, “the proportion of occasional and non-readers among children aged 0-17 rising to 28%, up from 20% in 2012,” reads a summary of the report, presented at The Bookseller Children Conference.
The good news is that reading is still one of the most popular activities: 32% of children read on a daily basis, second only to TV (36%). Both of these crush 21st century entertainment, with 20% using social networks, 17% watching YouTube, and 16% nose down in mobile games and apps.
Weekly, a sizable 60% read for pleasure. “But there’s a really disturbing pattern beginning to emerge when you look on a weekly basis,” warns Jo Henry of Nielsen Books.
Bookworms, or “heavy readers” who read 45-plus minutes a day, are unaffected by the deluge of gadgets. But non-readers and occasional readers are ditching books, which suggests yet another kind of digital divide in self-education. The blindingly colorful, 1990’s-looking graph below shows how occasional reading is falling across all age groups.
The study should be taken a grain of salt: the numbers are simple averages and was conducted by a for-profit institution. This isn’t peer-reviewed quality. But, the decline in reading does mirror other research, which suggests that reading has fallen, at least since 2005 [PDF]. Interestingly, research from the National Literacy Trust finds that children who say they read on websites is down from 2005 (64% to 50), suggesting that new forms of reading are not replacing books.
Sure, reading is great for developing brains, but pictures are so much more fun. Maybe teachers should call for an essay of Lord of The Flies to be composed in Snapchat.