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News story

Our new research shows that reading both in print and on screens benefits children’s literacy

01 May 2019

Reading book on tablet screen

Our new research into digital reading has found that young people who are the most engaged with reading are more likely to read both on paper and on screen than their peers who have low engagement with reading.

Based on data from our Annual Literacy Survey of 56,905 children and young people aged 9 to 18 in the UK, our Children, young people and digital reading report looks at how children and young people today use technology to read. It also looks at how this is linked to their engagement with reading: their enjoyment of reading, how often they read and what they think of reading.

Our research found that:

  • The number of children and young people aged 9 to 18 reading digitally is increasing
  • Twice as many young people who read above the level expected for their age read fiction both in print and on screen, compared with those who read below the expected level (24% vs 13%)
  • Pupils eligible for free school meals and boys with the lowest levels of reading engagement are two of the groups most likely to benefit from using digital formats. 24% of pupils on free school meals read fiction digitally compared to 16% of their peers who were not eligible for free school meals, while 1 in 4 disengaged boy readers said that they read fiction on screen, compared to just 1 in 10 of their more engaged peers (25% vs 10%)
  • While print remains the dominant reading format for children and young people, of those who do read in their free time, around 1 in 5 read fiction (18%), non-fiction (17%) and magazines (22%) exclusively on screens, while 1 in 4 only read poems (25%) and comics (26%) digitally

Launched at an event in Parliament yesterday, the research was commissioned by The Publishers Association and supports the next step in their Axe the Reading Tax campaign, which seeks to galvanise support from MPs to urge the Chancellor to remove VAT on digital publications, including ebooks and audiobooks, in the Autumn Budget.

“Digital reading is becoming an increasingly important part of children’s literacy lives. It gives children new and exciting ways to access a wide range of reading materials and is particularly effective at getting disengaged groups of children excited about reading. We know that when children enjoy reading, they do better at school and in life, so we fully back the campaign to Axe the Reading Tax on digital publications.”

Jonathan Douglas, National Literacy Trust Director

Read the full report.
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