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Teen Read Week Survey

(A Partnership of SmartGirl and The American Library Association)

Summary of Major Findings

Background
In 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.

The 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.

Survey Demographics
Data collected 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 boys.

Findings
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 Potter series.

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 Survey revealed:

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."

11% of boys, but only 4% of girls, said "I basically donít read books much at all."

31% of girls read constantly, whereas only 18% of boys read all the time.

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.

Most teens enjoy reading but struggle to find time for it in their schedules. Homework and other extracurricular activities take up much of their time.

46% of teens said they didnít have much time to read for pleasure.

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.

Favorite Books
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 section.

Favorite Books This Year
The Harry Potter series
Chicken Soup for the Soul series
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Giver
Bridge to Terabithia
The Catcher in the Rye
The Left Behind series
Holes
Stephen King books
The Outsiders

Favorite Books for Ages 8-10
The Cat in the Hat
Green Eggs and Ham
The Goosebumps series
The Babysitters Club
The Boxcar Children
Little House on the Prairie
Charlotteís Web
Where the Red Fern Grows
The Nancy Drew series
Beverly Cleary books

Favorite Books for Ages 11-13
The Harry Potter series
The Goosebumps series
Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul
The Babysitters Club
Where the Red Fern Grows
The Outsiders
Hatchet
The Sweet Valley High series
The Nancy Drew series
The Giver

Favorite Books for Ages 14-16
Stephen King books
Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul
R.L Stine books
John Grisham books
The Catcher in the Rye
The Hobbit
Where the Red Fern Grows
To Kill A Mockingbird
The Bible
The Giver

Favorite Books for Ages 17 and older
Chicken Soup for the Soul series
John Grisham books

SmartGirl asked: Do you enjoy reading? Why or why not?

"Yes, simply because I enjoy reading--escaping, or learning about new things, peoples, or ideas. For the adventure of it."
--boy, 14, Bucyrus, OH

"I love it. It gives you a chance to learn, explore, and experience things you never could without it."
--boy, 15, Muldraugh, KY

"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 me."
--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."
--boy, 18, Crofton, MD

"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 funny."
--girl, 13, Clayton, CA

"I love reading. It can put you into any situation, time or place. Literature has absolutely no limits."
--girl, 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

"OF COURSE!!!! 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, CA

"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 another universe."
--girl, 15

"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 porch."
--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."
--girl, 15, Spokane, WA

"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, WA

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, VA

SmartGirl asked: If you donít read much or donít like reading, why not?

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 reading material.

"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 often.
--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."
--girl, 18, Malden, MA

"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 television show."
--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."
--girl, 15, Belton, TX

"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."
--girl, 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 television better."
--girl, 17, Quincy, MA

"I don't read because it is boring"
--boy, 15, Cherryvale, KS

"I donít find many books I like."
--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, MA

"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

"I 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 care about."
--boy, 15, Westlake, LA

For more detailed information on the survey results:

Reading Habits
Reading Levels
Reading Preferences
Books
Passions and Interests
SmartGirl Survey Methodology
About SmartGirl


 
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