Some great news about kids, reading, and the internet

If you happened to read this USA Today article yesterday, you may have been led to believe that the bad news about kids and reading is never-ending. Kids aren’t reading enough! The computer is pulling them away from books! Brain-eating zombies are coming to devour us all! (Okay, strictly speaking, I suppose that last one was, um, made up by me. Details.) Their article suggests—among other things—that television and internet time is directly responsible for declining reading rates in older kids.

In contrast, the Publishers Weekly report on the same study is more straightforward:

The study found that a majority of children (68%) think it is “extremely” or “very” important to read for pleasure, and “like” or “love” doing so. However, that number decreases with age: 82% percent of children ages five to eight “like” or “love” reading, compared to 55% for children ages 15 to 17. It also found that although children can readily envision a future in which reading and technology are increasingly intertwined, nearly two thirds prefer to read physical books, rather than on a computer screen or digital device. Additionally, a large majority of children recognize the importance of reading for their future goals, with 90% of respondents agreeing that they “need to be a strong reader to get into a good college.”

The bottom line for kids and technology, when it comes to reading, is actually much more encouraging than the USA Today article leads one to believe. In fact:

In terms of technology, the study found that more children ages eight and up spend time online than read for pleasure on a daily basis. However, the finding has a silver lining. “High frequency Internet users are more likely to read books for fun every day,” said Heather Carter, director of corporate research at Scholastic in a statement. “That suggests that parents and teachers can tap into kids’ interest in going online to spark a greater interest in reading books.” Nearly two-thirds of children ages nine to 17 “extended” the reading experience online, including activities such as visiting an author’s Web site, using the Internet to find books by a particular author or visiting a fan site.

If this is the sort of thing that interests you, be sure to go to the source on the Scholastic site to get the facts. (My contact at Scholastic has indicated that USA Today will be issuing a correction on yesterday’s article.)

Speaking as a mom to kids who are definitely children of the technology age but also rabid readers, I think the data is promising. Kids aren’t getting online instead of reading, they’re getting online to expand their reading experiences. It sounds good to me!

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