Teen Read Week Survey
(A Partnership of SmartGirl and The American Library
Summary of Major FindingsBackground
Fall of 1999, SmartGirl and the Young Adult Library Services Association
(YALSA) - a division of the American Library Association (ALA) - joined in
partnership around a very important issue: reading.
As part of the 1999
Teen Read Week (October 17-23), a nationwide annual campaign spearheaded by
YALSA to promote reading among young people, SmartGirl conducted an online
survey of teens about their reading interests, habits, and attitudes.
goal of the Teen Read Week survey was to encourage young people to consider the
value and fun of reading, and to educate ourselves about young people's views
about reading. By hearing directly from teens, we can better understand their
interests and habits and, thus, find and develop more effective strategies to
raise and maintain their interest in reading.
The survey, which was
posted on the SmartGirl website, went live on October 2, 1999. By October 25,
when the survey was taken down, 3,072 young men and women from across the US
shared their views on reading. The following pages provide detailed information
regarding what they had to say.
It is our hope that the information
provided here is valuable to YALSA and the American Library Association in their
efforts to promote reading.
from October 2 through October 25, 1999.
Respondents were 3,072 US girls
and boys, ages 11≠18.
The respondents included 1826 girls and 1246
The news is good about reading! The majority
(72%) of the 3,072 respondents we surveyed told us they like to read for
pleasure when they have time; of that group, 36% say they "read constantly for
their own personal satisfaction." When teens arenít reading books, they are
avidly reading magazines (at least two-thirds of respondents), the newspaper
(59%), and the back of the cereal box (48%).
Over 60% of teens are
regularly encouraged to read, and 80% of these respondents were read aloud to as
children, either "sometimes" or "all of the time."
Some of the favorite
books these teens (ages 11-18) said they read this year included the literary
teen classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Outsiders, and
The Catcher in the Rye; popular bestsellers like the Stephen King books;
young adult novels like The Giver by the popular author Lois Lowry and
Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia; and, of course, the Harry
Thereís always room for improvement, however. Nearly
half of the teens surveyed said that time constraints kept them from reading
more for pleasure, and far too many respondents told us they thought of reading
as "boring" or "hard". In particular, boys seem to need extra encouragement when
it comes to reading. Most questions received answers that were skewed by gender,
often with girls showing more overall enthusiasm for reading, both for school
and for pleasure. Boys told us they were more likely to read to learn, while
girls said they were more likely to read for fun.
The Teen Read Week
Mysteries are the most popular types of books among
teens followed by adventure, horror and true stories.
50% of girls, but
only 32% of boys, said they read most often "just for the fun of it."
of boys, but only 4% of girls, said "I basically donít read books much at
31% of girls read constantly, whereas only 18% of boys read all the
81% of girls would most likely read more if they had the time, as
compared to only 62% of boys.
Teen magazines are extremely popular among
teen girls. In fact, 77% read fashion and beauty magazines.
47% of boys
read magazines about video games; 24% read computer manuals or other electronic
equipment manuals, as compared to 7% and 10% of girls respectively.
teens enjoy reading but struggle to find time for it in their schedules.
Homework and other extracurricular activities take up much of their
46% of teens said they didnít have much time to read for
Encourage teens to talk with each other about reading, and tell
parents to talk about reading with their kids! 36% of girls and 24% of boys talk
about their reading with their friends; 15% and 12% of girl and boys
respectively discuss books with their parents.
SmartGirl asked respondents what they considered to be the best
book they've read this year, along with what their favorite books were at age
8-10, 11-13, 14-16, and 17 or older. Here follows the top ten answers from each
Favorite Books This Year
The Harry Potter
Chicken Soup for the Soul series
To Kill a
Bridge to Terabithia
Catcher in the Rye
The Left Behind
Stephen King books
Favorite Books for Ages 8-10
The Cat in the
Green Eggs and Ham
The Goosebumps series
The Boxcar Children
Little House on the
Where the Red Fern Grows
Nancy Drew series
Beverly Cleary books
Favorite Books for
The Harry Potter series
Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul
Where the Red Fern Grows
The Sweet Valley High series
Nancy Drew series
Favorite Books for Ages
Stephen King books
Chicken Soup for the Teenage
R.L Stine books
John Grisham books
The Catcher in the
Where the Red Fern Grows
To Kill A
for Ages 17 and older
Chicken Soup for the Soul series
SmartGirl asked: Do you enjoy reading? Why or why
"Yes, simply because I enjoy reading--escaping, or learning
about new things, peoples, or ideas. For the adventure of it."
"I love it. It gives you a chance to learn, explore, and
experience things you never could without it."
--boy, 15, Muldraugh,
"Yes, reading is the window to the world. As a former homeschooler who
has never had a TV in the home reading has and always will be very important to
--girl, 18, Charlotte, NC
"No, because it's hard and I am not
very good at it."
--boy, 12, Minneapolis, MN
Yes...I enjoy reading. It
is a way for me to relax, to know what is going on, and to use my imagination. I
really enjoy reading books that take me into another world...[books] that really
make me feel involved. I guess I just appreciate a good story."
"Yes, by reading I can go into my own world, and explore so
many things. I really get into books: once, I was reading, and I was in the room
with the TV(I really do this a lot. I'm so into my book, that the TV doesn't
bother me!). I looked up for a minute at the TV, and had another thought, and I
almost said 'Hey, go back to that channel, I was watching that,' but the channel
I wanted to see was really my imagination's view of my book. It was really
--girl, 13, Clayton, CA
"I love reading. It can put you into
any situation, time or place. Literature has absolutely no limits."
15, Macon, GA
"I enjoy reading. I like the escape it brings you from your
life, and I like the way you can experience things that you may not be able to
in real life."
--girl, 14, Rainier, WA
"No, because most of the time I
can never find the right book."
--boy, 13, Clayton, CA
It broadens your horizons!!! It makes you someone else! You can escape your
problems by reading! You can have a boyfriend, be beautiful, talented, smart --
anything you want when you read!! DUH!!!"
--girl, 12, Santa Barbara,
"I love to read because it allows me to use my imagination and go
places I've never even been. I always learn something from the books I read.
Sometimes I read something in a book that really changes my life for the better.
It helps me to relate to people who have had completely different experiences
from my own. It is a lot of fun, and frankly, there is just nothing like curling
up with a really good book."
--girl, 18, Issaquah, WA
"I love reading.
From every book you read you can learn something new and can get insight into
something you've never considered before. Books can be very inspirational too,
and they can even give you confidence and motivation. Magazines I read mostly
for information and trivia, and newspapers only for information on what's going
on in my town."
--girl, 13, Grass Valley, CA
"I love it. Fiction has
this great way of sneaking information in a nice little package tied up with a
bow. The Clan of the Cave Bear showed me how primitive people may have lived,
The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife were thought-provoking glimpses into
"I enjoy reading most of all the things
that I do. When I'm reading, it's something that I can do by myself and not be
criticized all the time by my boss or by my peers. It's almost like going to
therapy to get a good book and sit in front of the fireplace or out on the front
--boy, 18, Pipe Creek, TX
"Yes, I love reading, because, like
most people, I like getting entertained. And books are like movies, just much
better. You get more details and know what people are thinking in their heads.
Also, I learn a lot from books. I have a much more extensive vocabulary thanks
to books. Sometimes I'll use a big word, and my parents are like, "Wow, how'd
you know what that meant?" Also, I get a lot of ideas from books and love
talking about books with my sister. She loves books too, and we always exchange
ideas and what we got out of a certain book with each other."
"I love reading! It's my own personal transport to wherever I
choose to go. I can leave my current situation to go anywhere else! When I have
a book that I'm really into, I find myself doing anything just to make time to
get back to that book because it takes me somewhere new whether it be somewhere
else in the US, or a completely different country. Reading is the best way to
live when you can't get around to new places much."
--girl, 17, Cheney,
I love it! I feel like it opens up a whole world of new ideas and
thoughts. I especially enjoy really complex, well written books. I love to
analyze what the writer must be thinking as he/she wrote the book. It takes much
longer that way but it's so much more interesting!"
--girl, 15, Middleburg,
SmartGirl asked: If you donít read much or donít like reading, why
The majority of respondents answered lack of time as being the
primary reason they donít read that much. Most said they were too busy with
homework and extra-curricular activities. Others said they find reading boring
and prefer to watch television or movies. Some attributed it to a lack of good
"The reason I donít read is because I basically donít
have enough time. I go to work right after school and go to school right away at
5:30 in the morning. But when I do read, I love it and wish I could do it more
--boy, 17, Lincoln, NE
"I don't read some books because they
are assigned by my English teacher. Most of the books chosen at school are
boring and hard to comprehend without Cliffs Notes or further explanations.
Therefore, I avoid reading those classic books on my own."
"I wish that I could read more often, but I can't because
homework takes up a ton of my time, and it just seems really hard to fit in a
lot of personal time, and when I can I'd just rather relax by watching a
--girl, 12, Reading, PA
"I think that reading is
EXTREMELY boring and that it gives me stress!! The only thing I will willingly
read is a magazine!!!"
--girl, 17, Boston, MA
"I never have time to
read. Between managing a social life, dance, thespians, drill team, debate, and
about a million other activities, I just don't have the time."
"I have a pretty busy schedule, and I like getting school
reading done before pleasure reading. So I don't get confused, I don't normally
read any other books besides assigned ones during the school year."
17, Quincy, MA
"Because most books can't keep me interested, so I guess I
have a short attention span"
--boy, 17, Boston, MA
"Because I like
--girl, 17, Quincy, MA
"I don't read because it is
--boy, 15, Cherryvale, KS
"I donít find many books I
--boy, 16, Monrovia, IN
"I don't really read for pleasure. If I
do, then it is from a beauty magazine like Teen or Seventeen. No books really
interest me anymore. I used to read Babysitters Club when I was little. I also
read other little kids books all the time, but not anymore. At my age, no books
really interest me."
--girl, 17, Cambridge, MA
"I try to read as much
as I can on my own, but I really don't have that much free time to do it. I tend
to read more on my own in the summers when I only have to worry about my day job
and not write papers or concentrate on homework."
--girl, 17, Revere,
"I think that reading takes up a lot of time that I don't have, and I
enjoy reading when it's a good book that I'm interested in, but I don't have the
time for books like that since the reading that I have to do is for school, and
I don't like the books they choose for me."
--girl, 17, Lincoln, NE
just don't like to read because I can never find a book that has enough suspense
to keep me from falling asleep as I read. Every now and then, I will find a good
book, but it's not often. I only like to read my magazines because they are the
only thing I enjoy reading. Reading is just boring unless it's something that I
--boy, 15, Westlake, LA
For more detailed information
on the survey results:
Passions and Interests