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Can I read to save the planet?

Added 04 Dec 2023 | Updated 03 Jan 24


In 2023, climate change continues to pose a threat to our planet. Young people can play a crucial role in shaping the future of the planet, yet some remain disengaged from environmental issues and activism. For example, while UK research found that 83% of young people aged 8 to 15 wanted to look after the environment (Natural England, 2022), EU research has shown that only 64% of those aged 15 to 25 reported having taken action to protect the environment in the past six months (European Climate Pact, 2022). This indicates a gap between intentions to support the environment and actual behaviours and, also, a decline in youth engagement.

This report examines the relationship between young people’s reading engagement and their environmental awareness and pro-environmental action, using data collected from 50,238 young people aged 11 to 16, as part of our Annual Literacy Survey in 2022. Results show a positive relationship between reading engagement and both environmental awareness and action. Furthermore, the report shows that environmental awareness influences the relationship between reading engagement and daily environmental action (e.g., ‘I do things to support the environment in my everyday life’), but not external environmental action (e.g., ‘I have written to someone in power about the environment’).

The findings highlight the importance of reading engagement in promoting young people’s environmental awareness and indicate a need to differentiate between types of environmental action when targeting reading behaviours. Applications of these findings in educational interventions and directions for future research are explored.

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