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This is Greg Toppo’s article in USA Today:
Many children in the USA are too busy, too distracted and, in some cases, too tired to read books for fun, a new survey finds, suggesting that schoolwork, homework and diversions such as YouTube and Facebook keep them from regularly enjoying a good book.
The findings, to be released today by children’s publisher Scholastic, echo those of the National Endowment for the Arts, which reported last year that, from 1984 to 2004, the percentage of 17-year-olds who “never or hardly ever” read for fun rose from 9% to 19%.
The new survey finds that, on average, one in four children read for fun every day — but that 22% rarely, if ever, do. And as kids get older, it finds, the percentage who rarely read for fun grows from 8% to 37%.
About one in four say they “have trouble finding books that I like,” a breathtaking admission in the age of chain bookstores, librarians’ blogs and blockbuster children’s series such as Harry Potter. (Scholastic is the series’s U.S. publisher.)
“There are millions of books out there,” says Kristen Harmeling, a researcher at Yankelovich, the research firm that conducted the survey. “But finding the right book for the right kid at the right time, that’s the challenge.”
The survey also finds that children age 9 or older don’t see much difference between reading a book and reading online.
“Kids don’t have that vision” of the Internet as detracting from books, Harmeling says. “They see them as supplementing each other.”
In fact, nearly two-thirds say they have trawled the Internet for information on a book or author, visited fan websites or written an online book review.
But in the survey of 501 children ages 5-17 and their parents, which took place last winter in 25 major cities, kids give several reasons why they don’t read for fun, including:
•31% “would rather do other things.”
•27% “have too much schoolwork and homework.”
•18% “don’t have time to read.”
•14% say “I’m often too tired.”
To John Hutton, co-owner of Blue Manatee Children’s Bookstore in Cincinnati, the findings aren’t surprising. They suggest that children need more unstructured playtime and less screen time, either in front of the TV or on the Internet.
“Kids are really stressed and overstructured,” he says.
Hutton, himself a pediatric resident at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, says parents are crunched for time, too, and reading to children “is often the only one-on-one downtime that parents will see with their kids.”
Hutton says he and his wife restrict the amount of time their three children spend online and watching TV, and they won’t let them have computers or TVs in their bedrooms.
“A little boredom,” he says, “is a good thing.”
source: this is Greg Toppo’s article in USA Today on 6/24/08 www.usatoday.com
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