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Surprising Facts About Aussie Teens' Reading Habits Revealed

I was recently sent an article, summarising some research from Deakin University around the reading habits of teens in 2024. Some of it was, as the title suggests, surprising. Some was not. However, all of it was built around the importance of reading, and supporting our teens to read, which is something that every one of us should do.

While we tend to see our teens as digital natives, recent research from Deakin University suggests that the average Aussie teen reader would rather flick through the pages of a digital novel, than listen to an audiobook or read digitally. However, there are still 3 in 10 that say they don't choose to read in their spare time.

Survey trends

In the survey of 13,217 students voluntary reading habits, influences, likes, dislikes and leisure activities some of the following information emerged:

  • 73% teens preferred printed books
  • Parents and friends influence teen reading more than school or where they live
  • Fiction (mystery, fantasy, dystopias) were most popular picks
  • Reading frequency declined with age
  • Girls were more likely to read than boys

The preference for physical books, according to the article was not surprising, as many receive books as gifts; as well as the fact that books don't have the same distracting alerts and notifications that digital devices do. It is also far less of a strain on the eyes than reading on a screen.

Leisure activities and reading

In examining teens preferred leisure activities, the study found that nearly one third, did not read for pleasure during the school term; 15% read daily, while the remaining readers engaged at varying frequencies throughout the week.

This contrasts with nearly 50% who engaged extensively with social media. With watching TV, movies and YouTube rounding out the preferred teen leisure activities.

Professor Rutherford also noted that teens today have more distractions than ever drawing them away from sitting with a good book.

Why read and what can we do?

Several studies have shown the correlation between reading for pleasure and academic achievement, wellbeing and employment outcomes, but reading rates and abilities are also on the decline. So, how can we encourage more reading in our teens?

  • Identify your reader
    The study found several, reading personality types; Fiction Fanatics, Regular Bookworms, Rushed Fans, Casual Dabblers, Holiday Browsers, Sparse Readers and Book Abstainers. Understanding how they engage, can help with finding titles of interest and the times to read.
  • Follow their interests
    Help your teen to find books that will captivate their interests to motivate their reading. If they already enjoy the subject matter, the reading is more enjoyable.
  • Value what they are reading
    Discuss what they and you are reading, show that you care and read the same books so that you can discuss them. Share your likes and dislikes and have meaningful discussions.
  • Role model reading
    Remember that one of the biggest influences on teen reading is you. Let them see you reading, show that it is important, that you make time and engage.
  • Reading time
    Carve time out at home and at school; make a family reading time, discuss when you like to read and encourage your teen to find 'their time.'
  • Visit libraries
    Visit your local library and/or encourage your teen to visit the local or school library.

If you are interested in digging a little deeper, please view the complete research article .

Encouraging Gamers to Read

Getting boys to read can, at the best of times, be a challenge. In the age of digital entertainment, this is proving doubly so. However, leveraging their interests in video games, can be the trick to getting them to pick up a book.

The Library is running a competition for the boys, where they borrow, read and review a book to go in the draw for Fortnite V-Bucks. As discussed later in this article, the books relating to Fortnite run the gamut from books about Fortnite (obviously) to Greek Mythology and many things in between.

In participating, our boys can find a book that is related to something they already enjoy, that also enhances their understanding in game and beyond.

Bridging interests: from console to page

Video games captivate players with immersive stories, complex characters and rich worlds. For boys that are already invested in the worlds and lore may find books based on their favourite game as an extension of their interests, a natural progression in exploring and understanding the world in which they play. Characters in these books may also be relatable, experiencing similar trials and tribulations to the player. Familiarity with the setting and concepts can also make the transition to reading far less daunting as well as more enjoyable.

Inspiration and context

Games draw inspiration from a wide variety of sources: history, pop culture, culture and literature just to name a few. The Assassins Creed series, uses a storytelling device that places the character in a historical period, where they may interact with notable figures and locations of the day. Fortnite, in its most recent season, based the story around Pandoras box and Greek mythology (as well as Star Wars and Avatar: The Last Airbender). While both games don’t let historical accuracy stand in the way of a good story; they both provide opportunity for further reading and discussion. Did Zeus really hate the Mortals? What was in Pandora’s box? Did Leonardo Da Vinci really invent hidden blades? If not, what did he invent?

Creating a balanced media diet

Integrating video game books into a routine can help create a balanced media diet, still allowing boys to engage in something that they enjoy, while taking time away from the screen. Actively engaging with reading and reading for pleasure need to start somewhere. Encouraging our boys to read and build the habits of reading will set them in good stead for a lifetime.

Library recommendations

Minecraft

  • The Minecraft Novel series, particularly Minecraft: The Island by Max Brooks
  • Minecraft "Guides" i.e. Minecraft Guide to Redstone

Halo

  • The Halo book series, particularly Halo: The Fall of Reach

Fortnite

  • Fortnite: The Essential Guide or Fortnite: The Chronicle
  • The Percy Jackson series
  • Myths or Troy by Stephen Fry

Assassins Creed

  • Assassins Creed series by Oliver Bowden and others

Nintendo Fans

  • Ask Iwata
  • Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia
  • The Snes Encyclopedia
  • Splatoon, Legend of Zelda, Mario, Animal Crossing, or Kirby Manga

Encouraging boys to read by building on the things they already enjoy is an effective strategy. If we align our choice of books with their interests, they are less likely to be intimidated, and more likely to engage with the subject matter. Hopefully, as they navigate the pages of their favourite game-based stories, they will discover that reading can be as exciting as their gaming adventures.


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