Why Read? Simple, Because Readers Are More Clever

Why bother reading a book (a book OMG) when you can get all the information you think you need from Insta, Snapchat and TikTok? Books seem so old fashioned and irrelevant and newspaper articles seem so annoyingly long.

If you are part of the CBA generation (can’t be asked), then reading anything that requires more than minutes of your time seems such hard work. Too hard, no? You are not alone.

Reading for entertainment by young people is decreasing with age, meaning the 15-to-17-year-olds globally read less than the age group below as they prefer spending time on social media, which is the key competitor to book reading. The average teen spends 7 hours and 22 minutes daily on their phones. Nothing new here, but it leaves precious little time for other things outside the school day.

Within this 15-to-17-year age group there are however substantial variations in time spent reading, depending on region as well as on the level of the parents’ education. Higher educated parents create better readers and teenagers in some parts of the world just read more.

Asia-Pacific, for example, has the fastest growing teen readership in the world and publishers of teen fiction are focussing much of their efforts in this region. In Europe, the most avid readers are German teenagers, 35% of whom read books at least 3 times a week vs 17% of teens (15-17) in the UK. American teens on the other hand, read on average only 8.4 minutes a day and 44% of teenagers in Wales (UK) say they have never read a book (compared to the global average of 35%).

Teens who read are better at solving complex issues, have more understanding of people who are different to themselves and often score better on standardised tests. Starting good reading habits when children are young will lead to higher intelligence in young adults and may help to keep the reading going in this challenging 15-to-17-year age group, which is exactly the time that parental influence wanes and when it can only be hoped that some of the love of reading remains.

But, at the same time, young people know that they need (and want) to be informed in order not to be that person who always has to ask the ‘what’ and ‘why’ to friends and appears to be out of the loop. According to the Literacy Trust, 51% of teens still read if they can learn something new as they feel the need to be informed. Teens are keen consumers of news but turn for most of their news to social media (part of those 7 hours, 22 minutes of screentime…), with a dominant source for information being YouTube. Nevertheless, more teens say that news from news organisations makes them understand world events better (65%) than when this is explained through an influencer on social media (54%).

And for books, not all is lost. Titles like the Hunger Games, Harry Potter, The Catcher in the Rye and 1984, amongst others, remain hugely popular. Teens seem to prefer, when they read, to read a real book instead of an e-book. So, there is hope for bookshops too.

If you want to read but don’t know what, step into a bookshop and ask for some direction as there is a ton of choice. And for being informed, get smart by being in-the-know. Read up. One book, one article at the time. It could turn you into a “can be asked” person. The bet is on readers, any day.

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