U.S. children read, but not well or often
Send a link to a friend
[May 12, 2014] By
Andrew M. Seaman
NEW YORK (Reuters Health)
— Although American
children still spend part of their days reading, they are spending
less time doing it for pleasure than decades ago, with significant
gaps in proficiency, according to a report released on Monday.
The San Francisco-based nonprofit Common Sense
Media, which focuses on the effects of media and technology on
children, published the report, which brings together information
from several national studies and databases.
“It raises an alarm,” said Vicky Rideout, the lead author of the
report. “We’re witnessing a really large drop in reading among
teenagers and the pace of that drop is getting faster and faster.”
The report found that the percentage of nine-year-old children
reading for pleasure once or more per week had dropped from 81
percent in 1984 to 76 percent in 2013, based on government studies.
There were even larger decreases among older children.
A large portion rarely read for pleasure. About a third of
13-year-olds and almost half of 17-year-olds reported in one study
that they read for pleasure less than twice a year.
Of those who read or are read to, children tend to spend on average
between 30 minutes and an hour daily with that activity, the report
found. Older children and teenagers tend to read for pleasure for an
equally long time each day.
Rideout cautioned that there may be difference in how people
encounter text and the included studies may not take into account
stories read online or on social media.
The report also found that many young children are struggling with
literacy. Only about one-third of fourth grade students are
“proficient” in reading and another one-third scored below “basic”
Despite the large percentage of
children with below-basic reading skills, reading scores among young
children have improved since the 1970s, according to one test that
measures reading ability.
[to top of second column]
The reading scores among 17-year-olds, however, remained
relatively unchanged since the 1970s.
About 46 percent of white children are considered “proficient” in
reading, compared with 18 percent of black children and 20 percent
of Hispanic kids.
Those gaps remained relatively unchanged over the past 20 years,
according to the report.
“To go 20 years with no progress in that area is shameful,” Rideout
The report highlights some behaviors that have been tied to children
being more frequent readers. Those behaviors include parents setting
aside time to read with their children and parents reading
themselves to model good behavior.
(Reporting by Andrew M. Seaman; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Dan
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.