Tablets and eReading devices have ushered in significant changes in the world of traditional literacy, and now a new research brief from Common Sense Media paints an updated picture of just how much reading rates have dropped sharply among adolescents – and differ between girls and boys.
Among the key findings in Children, Teens, and Reading, which combines different government, academic, and nonprofit data sets, is that the proportion of children who are daily readers drops markedly from childhood to the tween and teenage years.
One study documents a drop from 48% of six- to eight-year-olds down to 24% of 15- to 17-year-olds who are daily readers; another shows a drop from 53% of nine-year-olds to 19% of 17-year-olds.
According to US government studies, since 1984, the percentage of 13-year-olds who are weekly readers went down from 70% to 53%, and the percentage of 17-year-olds who are weekly readers went from 64% to 40%. Moreover, the percentage of 17-year-olds who never or hardly ever read tripled during this period, from 9% to 27%.
In terms of a gender gap, American girls read for pleasure for an average of 10 minutes more per day than boys, a trend that starts with young children and persists into the teenage years. It’s also reflected in achievement scores, with a gap of 12 percentage points in the proportion of girls vs. boys scoring “proficient” in reading in the eighth grade in 1992 and 11 points in 2012.
The brief also substantiates the presence of a persisting achievement gap between white, black, and Hispanic children. Government test scores indicate that white students continue to score 21 or more points higher, on average, than black or Hispanic students. Only 18% of black and 20% of Hispanic fourth graders are rated as “proficient” in reading, compared with 46% of whites.
Children, Teens, and Reading is part of a research effort directed by Vicky Rideout, a senior advisor to Common Sense Media, head of VJR Consulting, and director of more than 30 previous studies on children, media and health.