Parents Want to See More Reading for Fun With Paper or Digital Books

By Sean Cavanagh — January 16, 2013 2 min read
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More students are reading e-books than they were a few years ago, but are they doing enough reading for fun? Many parents are convinced that they’re not.

That’s one of the findings in Scholastic’s recently released annual survey of parents’ and children’s attitudes toward reading, the fourth of its kind. The survey underscores technology’s increasing reach into the academic and personal lives of students. But it also seems to reveal the lingering uncertainty among parents about whether young people’s growing use of everything from laptop computers to iPads to Kindles is a good thing, and whether both print and digital materials should have a place in their backpacks.

The survey shows that 46 percent of children in the country report having read an e-book, a jump from 25 percent in 2010, the last time responses were collected. (See my colleague Catherine Gewertz’s overview of the results.) The increase in e-book reading was reported among boys and girls of all the age groups surveyed, from 6 to 17.

Those children and teenagers used a variety of technological tools to read e-books, all of which are increasing in usage, the survey found. The percentage of students who had read an e-book on laptops rose from 13 percent to 22 percent, for instance, while the portion who had read one on an iPad or tablet jumped from 3 percent to 21 percent. The use of desktop computers, as well as handheld devices like iPods, and reading-specific devices like Kindles and Nooks also rose.

Parents, it should be noted, strongly approve of e-books. Seventy-two percent of those surveyed said they were at least somewhat interested in having their children read using those tools.

But that upswing in reading-through-technology is also taking place as parents are worried that students aren’t doing enough reading for fun. Just 47 percent of parents said they were satisfied with the amount of time their children spent reading for fun, down from 58 percent two years ago.

And when children read for pleasure, they usually aren’t doing it with e-books. Eighty percent of children surveyed said they rely on print books for fun reading, as opposed to just 20 percent who either read through e-books or a combination of e-books and print.

Overall, the importance of reading for fun fell among girls since 2010, but it rose among boys, according to the survey.

Meanwhile, the portion of parents who believe their children are spending too much time using various forms of technology, almost across the board, was much higher than those who did not share that view. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed said their children spent too much time playing video or computer games or using electronic devices of any kind; just 2 percent said they weren’t spending enough time on those activities.

By contrast, just three percent of parents said their children were spending too much time reading for fun, as opposed to 49 percent who said they weren’t spending enough time with a nose buried in a book.

The results are based on a survey of 1,074 pairs of children and parents, for a total sample size of 2,148, conducted in 2012.

Assuming the popularity of e-books continues to grow, will they eventually become young people’s first choice when they read for fun? Or will children turn to print as an alternative to the online reading many of them are required to do for school?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.