The United States has one of the best literacy rates in the world, but many children still struggle immensely with reading and writing.
Reading is one of my main passions in life, and I adore sharing this experience with my child. To share this passion with you, I’ve compiled 55 children’s reading statistics and facts to highlight the importance of reading habits, child literacy rates, and reading programs.
We’ll also highlight statistics on reading and success, disparities in access to books, and insightful facts about e-books. Keep reading to learn all about the world of literature and how you can encourage your child to read.
Key Facts About Children and Reading
Enjoy these five quick-fire must-know facts about children and reading:
- Only about 17 percent of 13-year-olds in America read for fun.
- The global literacy rate for people over 15 is 86.3 percent.
- Reading for six minutes per day can reduce stress by 68 percent.
- Children with books in the home are more likely to have proficient reading levels.
- Bookstore sales have reached their lowest point since the early 1990s.
55 Children Reading Statistics and Facts
If you want to encourage your child to read, learning some statistics and facts may be helpful. They can highlight the importance of reading and motivate you to stick with this vital hobby.
In the United States
We’re going to trek across the U.S. to study the nation’s reading habits. Here are 11 fun trivia facts about reading in America.
- Poor literacy in the U.S.: Compared to other countries, the United States has a higher percentage of adults with poor literacy skills (1). The average literacy score was 270 out of 500 points, which puts them at a Level 2 reading proficiency.
- Fewer American kids read for fun: The rate of kids who read for fun is at the lowest level since the 1980s (2). For instance, 13-year-olds who said they read for fun every day have seen a decline from 35 percent to 17 percent. Thirteen-year-olds who said they never read for fun increased from eight percent to 29 percent.
- High school students’ reading habits: One survey found that 20 percent of participants had never finished a book (3). Fifty-one percent only read one or two books per year, including academic required reading. Seventy-one percent said they rarely or never read for fun.
- Audiobooks are on the rise: The audiobook sale revenue in 2020 reached 1.3 billion dollars, which has been on the rise since 2018 (4).
- Americans prefer hardcover books: In 2017, 70 percent of book sales were physical books rather than e-books or audiobooks (5). Hardcover books accounted for 36 percent of sales, and paperbacks accounted for 34 percent.
- Daily reading time: American adults spent around 15 minutes a day reading in 2022 (6). During the pandemic, this briefly surpassed 20 minutes per day, but it has since dropped back down.
- The country’s most avid readers: In the U.S., people 75 or older are the most avid readers, spending over 40 minutes a day reading (7).
- The least avid readers: Those aged 15 to 19 are the least avid readers in the country, averaging less than 15 minutes per day.
- Who isn’t reading: Thirty-nine percent of people with a high school diploma or less education reported not reading a book in the past year (8). This is versus only 11 percent of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- Wealthier people read more: Thirty-one percent of people with a 30,000 dollar annual income or less don’t read books, compared to 15 percent of those in households earning more than 75,000 dollars.
- Reading habits by race: Hispanic adults are less likely to have read a book in the past year. Thirty-eight percent of Hispanic people, 25 percent of Black people, and 20 percent of white people report not reading a book in the last 12 months.
Literacy Rates Around the World
Curious to know about literacy rates by country? What country has the highest literacy rate, and what country has the highest illiteracy rate? Let’s look at these 11 stats that show the vast difference between countries.
- Global literacy rate: The global literacy rate for men and women over 15 is 86.3 percent (9). Men have a 90 percent literacy rate, and women have an 82.7 percent literacy rate.
- United States literacy rate: The U.S. has the 51st-best literacy rate in the world at 99 percent (10). They have the highest education attainment in the world at 90.9 percent.
- The most literate country: Andorra is the most literate country in the world, with a rate of 100 percent.
- Countries with a rate of 100 percent: As well as Andorra, other countries with a 100 percent literacy rate include Finland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, North Korea, Norway, and Uzbekistan. In eighth place is Latvia, which has a 99.89 percent literacy rate.
- The least literate country: Niger has the lowest literacy rate in the world at 19.1 percent.
- Countries with less than 40 percent: Countries with a less than 40 percent literacy rate — the lowest in the world — include Guinea, South Sudan, Mali, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Benin.
- United Kingdom literacy rate: The U.K. has a literacy rate of 99 percent, ranking 50th in the world. They are eighth in the world for education attainment at 79.9 percent.
- Croatia literacy rate: Croatia falls into 30th place with a 99.27 percent literacy rate.
- Singapore literacy rate: Singapore is in 82nd place with a 96.77 percent literacy rate.
- Brazil literacy rate: Brazil comes in 126th place with a literacy rate of 92.59 percent.
- Egypt literacy rate: Coming in near the bottom is Egypt, which is 165th place with a literacy rate of 75.84 percent.
Statistics on Reading and Success
So, why is reading so important? We’re going to look into the top facts about how reading impacts success and school performance, among other benefits.
- Reading enhances brain activity: Reading increases brain activity in the areas responsible for language, movements, and physical sensation (11).
- Reading makes kids more confident: The better someone’s reading skills are, the more confident they become in academic settings (12). Kids also become more creative and open, especially since they see more diversity and imaginative settings.
- Readers get higher grades: A study found that hobby readers averaged higher grades in English, history, science, and math (13). However, the study also found that Honors students who didn’t read for pleasure maintained better grades across all four subjects than level students who did read for fun.
- Reading is more powerful than background: Children who read have better cognitive development and life achievements regardless of their parents’ education or socio-economic background (14).
- How reading impacts career: Teenagers who read for fun are more likely to get managerial or professional jobs in adulthood.
- Daily reading is a mood booster: Those who read for 15 minutes daily feel 69 percent more accomplished and 33 percent happier (15). People even feel 55 percent more relaxed.
- Reading reduces stress: Reading for even six minutes a day can reduce stress by 68 percent (16). It can lower your heart rate and ease muscle tension. Overall, reading reduces stress more than listening to music or going for a walk.
- Readers live longer: Readers with an 80 percent survival chance live four months longer than non-readers (17). Readers also experience a 20 percent reduction in risk of death over a long period than non-readers.
- Readers are more understanding: Research has found that literary fiction makes a reader understand other people’s thoughts and feelings (18). There is a significant connection between reading fiction and being more empathetic.
- Reading improves critical thinking: Kids and adults who read have better critical and analytical thinking skills, which is very useful in academic settings.
- Reading for fun helps with reading for school: Reading textbooks and academic novels can be more challenging than fun books. But reading for pleasure can help a person’s ability to read for school. Reading for fun impacts reading attainment, writing skills, self-confidence as a reader, vocabulary, text comprehension, and a positive attitude toward texts.
Access to Books and Reading Initiatives
Access to books can massively affect a person’s reading ability and habits. It’s important for elementary students and high school students to have access to books. Let’s look at various statistics about access to books, disparities, and what reading interventions are in place.
- Reading habits in lower-income families: Access to books can affect a child’s reading enjoyment. Children from lower-income families are less likely to enjoy reading for pleasure, and this is partly due to their lack of access to good books. For example, during the summer, students from lower-income families are more likely to stop reading than children from middle-class families.
- Children would read more if they had more access: Fifty-four percent of children said they would read more books if they could access them more easily. In fact, only 32 percent of children own fifteen books or more.
- School inequities that hurt children: There are a few aspects that harm children in high-poverty communities, including lack of books and materials (19). Fewer qualified teachers and a lower tax base for financial support are also included.
- Access to books via parents: Children whose parents read aloud to them develop a better vocabulary, are more expressive, and have earlier literacy skills.
- Income and numbered access to books: Children from middle-income neighborhoods had approximately 13 books per child. Children from low-income neighborhoods had about one book per 300 children.
- Book access in Los Angeles: In L.A., children who attended schools in Beverly Hills had access to eight times more books than schools in high-poverty areas or in Black communities. The Beverly Hills school libraries also had three times as many books.
- My Brother’s Keeper initiative: My Brother’s Keeper is an initiative that aims to address gaps that affect boys and men of color, ensuring that this demographic can reach their full potential (20). The initiative aims to ensure that all children are reading at grade level by the third grade.
- The importance of books in the home: Less than 15 percent of students with fewer than 10 books at home had proficient reading levels. However, 50 percent of students with more than 100 books in the home had proficient reading levels.
- Children with no libraries: 2.5 million children in the U.S. attend a school district with zero libraries. Thirteen million children attend a school district with less than 10 reading materials per student.
- Reading Recovery initiative: Reading Recovery is among the most common reading initiatives in the U.S. (21). It targets first graders who aren’t understanding concepts that set the foundation for reading and writing. The students get a 30-minute daily lesson with a Reading Recovery teacher for up to 20 weeks. Once they show they can work independently, the lessons stop, and they can return to the classroom.
- Save the Children literacy program: Save the Children has a literacy program that supports disadvantaged students, for kindergarten kids up to sixth graders (22). The program supports schools and teachers and offers reading tutorials, after-school and summer programs, and extra help for emergent readers. As a result, 82 percent of children improved their literacy skills after using the program.
Technology and E-Books
The world of technology has been threatening reading for decades. Let’s look at some essential facts about technology and e-books in the realm of reading.
- Popularity of audiobooks: About 23 percent of people have read an audiobook in the last year, double the amount recorded in 2011 (23). However, this is still less than the readership of physical books.
- People reading e-books: Thirty percent of adults have read an e-book in the past year (24).
- Book sales: Book sales from bookstores in the U.S. have been at their lowest since the early 1990s. This is due to an increase in online shopping, but also due to fewer people reading and technology like TVs and video games becoming more accessible.
- Audiobooks and multi-tasking: Over 73 percent of women and 66 percent of men multitask while listening to an audiobook (25). This technology has allowed people to squeeze reading into their busy schedules.
- E-book sales: In 2020, 191 million e-books were sold. This doesn’t include books by indie authors.
- People using e-readers: Between 2023 and 2028, the forecast is that 1.1 billion people will use e-readers (26).
- E-books vs. physical books: Despite e-books being cheap and accessible, few readers only read e-books (27). Nine percent of Americans have only read digital books, whereas 33 percent of Americans who read e-books also read physical books.
- Technology and libraries: Google is quick and easy to use. When we need to look something up, we can spend a couple of minutes on Google rather than a couple of hours scouting our way around a library. Technology has changed how we use libraries and, in many areas, eliminated the need for libraries altogether.
- We don’t need to own books: Technology has impacted the need for owning books. It’s easy to access books online through articles or streaming services like Spotify.
- The Kindle: The Kindle is the most popular e-reader, with 72 percent of e-reader owners choosing a Kindle over other brands (28).
- The first audiobook: The first audiobook came out in 1932 when the American Foundation for the Blind released 15 minutes per side of a vinyl (29). The first recordings included William Shakespeare’s plays and the Constitution.
How To Encourage Your Child To Read
From one parent to another, here are 10 things you can do to motivate your child to read:
- Talk to your baby: Speaking to your infant and toddler can help them develop the language skills needed as a reader. When reading is easier, it’s more enjoyable for them. Try narrating your day or talking about your surroundings.
- Read to your child: For the first few years, it’s crucial that parents read to their children. Once they begin learning phonics and literacy skills, they will be more likely to enjoy independent reading if they have this foundation. Aim for 15 minutes per day, but 30 minutes is best.
- Re-read: If your child likes to read the same book over and over again, that’s okay! Encourage reading of any kind. Re-reading can also help your child work on speed and accuracy skills.
- Provide access to books: Whether this means borrowing books from the library or gifting books for birthdays, providing your child access to books is one of the best ways to encourage reading. You can also keep books in an easy-to-reach spot for younger children and toddlers.
- Visit the library: Simple but effective — take your kids to the library and let them roam around, choosing their own books and flicking through various titles.
- Read in front of your child: Instead of scrolling on your phone in front of your child, take a book and read in front of them. This is great if your child is playing independently and you need a coffee break.
- Make reading interactive: When reading a book to your child, connect it to real life. Ask your child questions. Do funny voices.
- Choose a school with access to books: Encourage your child’s school to introduce the kids to various books and storytelling methods.
- Bring a book everywhere: Don’t leave the house without something to read. Whether packing your child a book, magazine, or sticker book, this is a great way to show there is always time for a book.
- Work reading into your routine: Work reading into your daily routine, such as reading before bed or having reading parties together as a family.
Reading is important for kids, adults, students, and older people. While these tips are great for parents, anybody can start implementing them into their lives.