Despite the rise of young adult fiction, teenagers still don’t like reading, survey finds

Teenagers are less likely to enjoy reading than younger children and far less likely to see it as cool, according to a new survey on children’s literacy

The National Literacy Trust’s (NLT) sixth annual survey of more than 32,000 children and young people shows that while 73 per cent of 8- to 11-year-olds enjoy reading, the proportion drops to just 40 per cent for 14- to 16-year-olds.

And only 24 per cent of teenagers say that reading is cool, compared with 70 per cent of younger children.

The findings stand against an apparent boom in young adult fiction, with Youtuber Zoella’s debut book, Girl Online, selling more than 78,000 copies in its first week – the highest ever first-week sales for a debut author.

The NLT survey also reveals that screens dominate children’s reading habits.

‘Happier reading on-screen’

It shows that pupils spend more than twice as much time reading online as they do reading physical books. They read online for an average of 100 minutes per day, compared with 42 minutes spent reading books.

In the past five years, there has been an increase in the percentage of children reading websites, text messages, blogs and ebooks, while the numbers reading magazines and newspapers has dropped. The proportion reading comics (26 per cent) and fiction (44 per cent) has remained broadly stable.

Overall, levels of reading enjoyment have increased among all age ranges in the past five years, but the gap between older and younger pupils remains – leading to calls for more emphasis on reading for pleasure in secondary schools.

Jonathan Douglas, National Literacy Trust director, said: “There has been a huge amount of energy put into reading for enjoyment at primary stage…These energies need to be released into the secondary stage, where despite great work by English departments and librarians, pupils seem to be struggling to sustain their enjoyment of reading.

“Influencing factors could be the pressures of academic studies, lack of time, less campaigning at secondary stage by the third sector and a reduction in influence of parents.”

The percentage of pupils who enjoy reading very much or quite a lot

2010 2015
KS2 68.1% 72.6%
KS3 45.8% 51.7%
KS4 32.5% 40.2%

Percentage of pupils who read certain formats outside class at least once a month

Text messages Fiction Poems
KS2 39.8% 48.2% 35.9%
KS3 77.3% 45.2% 13.0%
KS4 83.5% 33.4% 7.9%

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