Opinion: Teen Reading in the Digital Era Report Update

The Teen Reading in the Digital Era project is a fabulous project that is run by a team of researchers from Deakin University and is all about understanding teen reading habits. Findings of this research provide valuable insights into the reading lives of teens. They have recently released a report with an update on their most recent findings.

You can read their report here: 2022 survey data highlights

Before I dive into my thoughts on their findings, I thought a little background information would be appropriate. According to the report, 9,500 students from secondary schools around Australia participated in the survey. These students were from 57 different schools that included government, independent and Catholic schools from NSW, QLD, VIC, and WA. A total of 60 “experts” participated in follow-up interviews and 83 students participated in follow-up focus groups. Personally, I’m impressed with the amount of detail in the data collection methods and think that a good amount of data has been collected with more still to come – hopefully this means some very exciting things in terms of understanding teen reading habits in our digital world!

Some of the key highlights from the report for me are:

1. 40% of surveyed students reported not reading at all during a week or only once

This is devastating to me. I love reading and am saddened by the fact that 40% of participants don’t get to experience the joy it brings me.

2. More than 50% reported a positive attitude towards reading

This tells me that of those students who don’t read, many would probably read if they had time!

3. Schoolwork demands was cited as a major factor in choosing not to read

This is not a shock to me – I suspect that many more teens would be reading if they could fit it in around their schoolwork.

4. Print is not dead!

Many of the teens in the survey reported preferring print books to digital. This does not surprise me at all as it aligns very much with my experience in a high school as a TL; however, that does not mean that we should not be providing access to quality eBook and audiobook options as some will prefer them too! We need to cater to everyone.

5. Popular genres haven’t changed much

Teens identified fantasy, mystery, crime, and dystopian novels as popular genres. I think that fantasy will always be popular as the avid readers often love fantasy and always will, but I will say it again – WE NEED AUTHORS TO WRITE MORE MYSTERY AND CRIME NOVELS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE. Also interesting to note was that 12-13 year olds preferred humour and graphic novels – not surprising here either – and that those who were 15+ preferred romance.

6. Popular books are definitely influenced by #BookTok

Many young people are on TikTok, and many readers have found the #BookTok community. It’s a great place to get book recommendations, but most of the users on BookTok are adults and are recommending books that would not be appropriate on many school library shelves. While I’m all for promoting books, it’s a fine line for TLs and families to manage. BookTok does seem to impact teen girls or those that have identified as non-binary more than boys.

It’s alarming to me that teen girls ages 14+ identified It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover (as well as others by her) as their favourite book. This book is widely popular on BookTok but that community tends to be much older than school aged teens and so the adult content and themes in books like Hoover’s isn’t an issue. 14+ teen girls reading this does worry me a little due to our duty of care, but… at least they’re reading something???

7. Please get involved if you can!

The report is only 2 pages long and well worth a skim if you’ve got time. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the final data from this project! If you would like for your school to be involved, there are contact details on the final page of the report for you to express your interest. Please consider getting involved. The more we know about teen reading habits and preferences, the more we can support them to develop and maintain healthy reading habits!

*Feature image provided by Pexels Free Photos library in WordPress*

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