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Children’s on-screen reading overtakes reading in print

16 May 2013

For the first time children are reading more on computers and other electronic devices than they are reading books, magazines, newspapers and comics. This is potentially detrimental to children’s reading levels as those who read daily only on-screen are much less likely to be good readers than those who read in print. The National Literacy Trust is calling for a healthier reading balance using both books and technological devices.

New research with 34,910 young people aged 8 to sixteen published by charity the National Literacy Trust reveals:

  • 39% of children and young people read daily using electronic devices including tablets and eReaders, but  only 28% read printed materials daily. The number of children reading eBooks has doubled in the last two years (from 6% to 12%).
  • Children say they prefer to read on screen. Over half (52%) said they would rather read on electronic devices but only a third (32%) would rather read in print.
  • Nearly all children have access to a computer at home and 4 out of 10 now own a tablet or a smartphone, while 3 in 10 do not have a desk of their own.
  • Girls are significantly more likely than boys to read in print (68% vs 54%)
  • Girls are also more likely to read on a range of on-screen devices including mobile phones (67% girls vs. 60% boys), eReaders (84% girls vs. 69% boys), and tablets (70% girls vs. 67% boys).

The research examines the influence of this technology on children’s reading abilities and their enjoyment of reading. It found those who read daily only on-screen are nearly twice less likely to be above average readers than those who read daily in print or in print and on-screen (15.5% vs 26%). Those who read only on-screen are also three times less likely to enjoy reading very much (12% vs 51%) and a third less likely to have a favourite book (59% vs 77%).

 National Literacy Trust Director, Jonathan Douglas said:

Our research confirms that technology is playing a central role in young people’s literacy development and reading choice. While we welcome the positive impact which technology has on bringing further reading opportunities to young people, it’s crucial that reading in print is not cast aside.

We are concerned by our finding that children who only read on-screen are significantly less likely to enjoy reading and less likely to be strong readers. Good reading skills and reading for pleasure are closely linked to children’s success at school and beyond. We need to encourage children to become avid readers, whatever format they choose.

The research is being launched today at an event hosted by its funders, law firm Slaughter and May. National Literacy Trust Director Jonathan Douglas will chair a debate with experts including Coventry University’s Professor Clare Wood who has researched the impact of text messaging on literacy; Lindsay Nadin, Head of Primary Literacy Publishing at Pearson UK Schools; Lord Jim Knight, former Minister of State for Schools; and Kate Wilson, Managing Director of children’s book and app publisher Nosy Crow.

-ends-

Notes to editors

About the research

34,910 children and young people aged 8 to sixteen from across the UK took part in the National Literacy Trust research in December 2012. The full findings will be published in a forthcoming report.

About the National Literacy Trust
We are the only national charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK. Our research and analysis make us the leading authority on literacy. We run projects in the poorest communities, campaign to make literacy a priority for politicians and parents, and support schools.

Visit www.literacytrust.org.uk to find out more, donate or sign up for a free email newsletter. You can also find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Phone us on 020 7587 1842 or email contact@literacytrust.org.uk  

Tags: Children, Young People

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The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity no. 1116260 and a company limited by guarantee no. 5836486 registered in England and Wales and a registered charity in Scotland no. SC042944.
Registered address: 68 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL.