Digital Reading on the Rise for Children (With a Qualifier)By LESLIE KAUFMAN
David Maxwell for The New York TimesDigital reading is rising fast among children ages 6 to 17, but this is not necessarily translating into a greater desire to read, according to a report released on Monday by Scholastic Inc.
Every other year since 2006, Scholastic, a publisher and distributor of children’s books, has surveyed American families about their attitudes toward reading and literacy.
The latest study, the Kids and Family Reading Report, conducted with Harrison Group, showed both the advantages and the drawbacks of the digital age when it comes to encouraging reading among young people.
For example, the percentage of children who have read an e-book has almost doubled since 2010, to 46 percent. Yet, during the same period, the number of girls who reported being frequent readers declined to 36 percent from 42 percent.
The survey, conducted from Aug. 29 to Sept. 10, 2012, was based on a sample of 1,074 children and their parents: 2,148 respondents in total.
The change seems to have been brought on by a shift in the kind of digital devices that children, like adults, are using to read, said Francine Alexander, Scholastic’s chief academic officer. They are increasingly using tablets, like iPads, which allow for more activities than just reading. In fact, slightly more children reported having read a book on a tablet than on a plain e-reader device.
“When kids are using the digital devices, the girls were social networking more,” Ms. Alexander said. Many parents, she added, complained that their children spent too much time playing video games.
“Managing screen time is the challenge of parenting today,” she said.
Still, the technology is here to stay, and the study revealed ways in which it could increase reading among children. For example, about one-fourth of the boys who had read an e-book said they were reading more books for fun. Boys have traditionally lagged behind girls in reading.
Also, half of those in an older age range, from 9 to 17, said they would read more books for fun if they had greater access to e-books.
Children said e-books were particularly good when they wanted to be secretive about reading. But at night in bed, most children said they still liked to read books in print.