According to a survey of 2,000 British children and parents conducted by Nielsen Book in June this year, 50% of family households now own at least one tablet, up from 24% a year ago.
Is this a good thing for kids’ reading habits? Are they hoovering up e-books and delighting in digital book-apps on these devices? In a word: no. At least not according to data shared at The Bookseller Children’s Conference by research firm Nielsen Book.
The good news? 32% of children still read books for pleasure on a daily basis, the second most popular activity behind watching TV (36%), and well ahead of social networking (20%), watching videos on YouTube (17%) and playing mobile games and apps (16%).
On a weekly basis, 60% of children are reading books for pleasure, and if you factor in children who are being read to by parents, that percentage climbs to 72%. But…
“But there’s a really disturbing pattern beginning to emerge when you look on a weekly basis,” said Nielsen Book’s Jo Henry, presenting the findings to an audience of publishers.
Only three activities increased in percentage terms between 2012 and 2013: playing “game apps” (the term used by Nielsen Book), visiting YouTube and text messaging. Reading? That was down nearly eight percentage points.
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“I want to stress that most children are still medium and heavy book readers, but what we’re seeing is a really significant rise in the number of occasional and even non-readers in the children’s market.”
Nielsen Book has specific definitions for those terms. Heavy readers are defined as children who read at least weekly, and for an average of 45 minutes or more a day. Medium are a little less than that, light are those reading weekly but for less than 15 minutes a day on average, and occasional readers are those who read 1-3 times a month.
“What we’re seeing is that non-readers have risen from 22% to 28% of all children,” said Henry, who went on to claim that it’s not just reading that is suffering from the growth in apps and YouTube use: activities including going out, hobbies and art are also being dropped.
“It’s hugely impacting on teenagers: 11-17 year-olds are actually dropping their participation in quite a broad range of activities in order to play game apps,” said Henry.