The recent Pew report on Young Americans’ Reading and Library Habits contains a number of great take-aways, including the news that young people frequent libraries at an unexpectedly high rate. But another finding has emerged that may have an impact on the way that schools think about pleasure reading and reading instruction both inside and outside school.
The finding is simple:
Readers under 30 prefer cellphones and computers. Those over 30 like dedicated devices such as the Kindle.Among e-book users surveyed, between ages 16-29, more than half read one on a desktop or laptop and around 40 per cent use a cellphone. Around 25 per cent used an e-reader. Among respondents 30 and older, 46 per cent preferred e-readers, just 25 per cent cellphones.
Perhaps in line with this finding, the report also states that
…teen readers were less likely to read an ebook than those immediately older. Around 12 per cent of respondents aged 16-17 read an ebook over the past year, compared to 21 per cent for ages 18-24 and 25 per cent for ages 30-39.
So what do these findings tell us as educators? I think that one conclusion from the numbers is reasonable: the younger you are, the less likely you are to own or have regular access to a dedicated e-reader. We already know that young people don’t read very much, at least not enough to become proficient readers. But when the time comes to access text digitally, they do so on the devices that they have access to: their phones and the computers that are readily accessible at home, at school, and at the library.
Implications for educators? There is a lot of talk about “bring your own device” (BYOD) in schools, and this finding would seem to support the idea that schools should make more use of the devices that students actually have with them every day (instead of forcing them to pay a dollar to park them at a truck nearby the school–more here). The average smartphone has more computing power than the early computers that schools purchased and installed in computer labs for students to use. So why don’t we make more use of these resources, since students clearly do not “add” an e-reader device until they get older?
Can you think of other factors that would lead to the disparity in e-book reading and in e-reader use between young and old that the Pew report documents?