Library use and reading habits of young adults in the U.S. improve

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    Many people are unaware you can borrow e-books from a library. (Shutterstock photo)

    Among young adults between the ages of 16 and 29, more than eight in 10 have read a book within the last 12 months, and six in 10 have used their local library at least once a year. The findings are a part of The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, which took a look at the reading habits of young individuals in the U.S.  – an interest group for the publishing community.

    When broken down into smaller age groups, the report also revealed high school students between the ages of 16 and 17 and young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 were the most likely to have used the library or read a book over the course of the last year. This seems to have a direct effect on academic success.

    For the data collection, The Pew Research Center utilized phone interviews from a nationally-representative sampling of more than 2,900 young adults over the age of 16 as well as panel reports from online library patrons between the ages of 16 and 29.

    The findings support earlier Pew research, which indicated Americans under the age of 30 are the most likely group to do any sort of reading, and three-quarters of younger Americans read for pleasure or to keep up with current events.

    More on national library and reading habits 

    • Forty percent of e-book reading among Americans under the age of 30 was done on a cell phone, compared to 50 percent on computers, 23 percent on the Kindle, and 16 percent on a tablet reader.
    • Of Americans reading books, 75 percent read a print book, 19 percent read an e-book, and 11 percent listened to an audio book.

      reading habits

      Older adults may not read as much as younger Americans, but they consider the library an important part of their lives. (Shutterstock photo)

    • Sixty percent of Americans under the age of 30 used the library in the past 12 months. Forty-six percent were there for research, 38 percent borrowed books, and 23 percent borrowed a form of periodical.
    • Most young readers are not aware they can borrow e-books from a library.
    • Forty-seven percent of young Americans read long-form e-content such as magazines and newspapers.
    • Individuals between the ages of 16 and 17 rely heavily on the library for educational research purposes and are more likely than other age groups to find reading recommendations at the library.
    • College-age individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 have the highest reading rate out of the evaluated groups and are the most likely to purchase books rather than borrow them from friends and family.
    • Individuals between the ages of 25 and 29 are less likely to have read a book within the last 12 months, though individuals in this group are more likely to consider the library an important part of their lives.

    Importance of reading habits in school success

    The importance of good reading habits is not just evident in young adults. A recent study published in The Future of Children revealed early reading habits are important in decreasing the education gaps between ethnicities.

    According to the report, enrolling Hispanic students in a preschool education program could reduce the reading education gap by as much as 26 percent.

    The study also points out not all literacy skills are equal. The skills needed to understand history are not the same as the reading habits or skills needed to understand biology, and, according to the report, “Instructional interventions that enable students to read to learn successfully in different disciplines have not been widely adopted.”

    Schools are falling short in teaching the knowledge-based competencies, such as conceptual and vocabulary knowledge, that are at the root of socioeconomic gaps in reading outcomes,” wrote researchers. “Strengthening the in-school language environments of students from non-English speaking and low-income homes would help develop these competencies.”

    Encouraging good reading habits at a young age will help students continue to improve their literacy skills throughout their education careers.


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