Almost a third of under 18s NEVER read and eight out of ten spend little or nothing on books, according to the UK’s most in-depth study of children’s reading habits by children’s market intelligence specialist Kids Insights.
Despite this, the report - compiling the views of more than 20,000 UK-based 4-18 year olds - found that the number of children reading was actually UP by three per cent on 2017.
The study found the most popular genres are fantasy (16 per cent) and comedy (15 per cent). Across all age groups, books about young wizard Harry Potter continue to prove the most spell-binding, as it topped the most read books during the last year, followed by Horrid Henry and the Gruffalo for 4-12 year olds, and Game of Thrones for 13-18 year olds.
Paperbacks (39 per cent) and hardback books (40 per cent) are still the most popular format for reading among children, with slight increases over the last 12 months. However, despite the technological revolution, the number of children reading online articles has dropped by six per cent over the year for 4-15 year olds, with eBooks, newspapers and audiobook readership all falling by between one to two per cent.
In fact, the use of technology for reading (eBooks and Audiobooks) remains relatively low.
eBooks were found to be a more popular platform amongst girls (14 per cent) than boys (8 per cent) and are most popular with children aged 13-18. Audiobooks however, whilst also more popular with girls than boys, are most popular with children aged 7-12.
Jonathan Watson is Product Manager at Manchester-based Kids Insights, which surveys 20,000 children every year to give brands and marketers real-time insight into what young people really think about everything from the most-watched YouTubers, to their attitudes on the environment.
“Reading is such an important part of children’s lives, and World Book Day was the perfect day to pick up a book and get stuck into new worlds and stories,” said Jonathan. “And although our data shows that plenty of young people are doing just that, there’s still a significant number who aren’t getting the huge range of benefits that reading brings with it.
“Some of the most popular books in our study, like Harry Potter, Horrid Henry or the Gruffalo, take readers on adventures that are unrivalled by TV or film and whether it’s through an old fashioned paperback or hardback or an eBook or a tablet, we hope more children take the chance to get reading in 2018.”
Despite one third of children never reading, girls of all ages did name reading as their favourite hobby. It polled 11 per cent of the vote across the age groups, beating drawing, dancing and listening to music.
But for boys, reading was well down the list, behind football, gaming and Lego for the under 12s, and beaten by football, gaming, swimming and listening to music in the 13-18-year-old category.
Worryingly, the report seems to suggest that young people struggle to combine an active lifestyle with a good book.
The report found that of the seven per cent of children who cited reading as their favourite hobby, almost half don’t attend any clubs (compared to 37 per cent of all children) and just nine per cent are members of a sports club.
The biggest influencers when it comes to reading choices are parents for the 4-12s (40 per cent); and friends (34 per cent), the internet (33 per cent) and social media (31 per cent) for 13-18 year olds.
Around 14 per cent of all children have visited a book shop over the last six months and of those, Primark and WH Smiths were named as the two favourite high street stores. Amazon came out top of the favourite online book retailer chart with 45 per cent of the vote.
The report found that kids that buy online are likely to spend more money on books and spend longer reading them.
“The trends revealed in our exclusive Kids Insight studies are always really interesting,” Jonathan added. “And they paint an incredible picture for our customers of childrens’ habits and feelings on a whole range of topics. By polling 20,000 children every year we can truly understand what children really think about a huge range of topics and identify the trends as they emerge.
“And even though there are young people not experiencing the joys of reading, it’s encouraging to see the popularity of paperbacks and hardbacks increasing. It will be interesting to see how book publishers can utilise new technologies (such as augmented reality) to continue to engage this increasingly demanding audience who in many ways don’t just want to read the story but also want to co-create the story!”
"Reading is such an important part of childrens lives - we hope more children take the chance to get reading in 2018."
Jonathan Watson, Product Manager at Kids Insights
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