Children born in the new millennium will start using screens before they can even read. Many parents let their children play with tablet devices and smartphones, and even young teens spend a lot of their time on computers and phones. However, common wisdom holds that “kids these days” just don’t read as much.

Outside of required reading lists for schools, do kids and teens really read less than they used to?

Despite the increased amount of time kids and teens might spend reading online, studies show that kids do read less for pleasure than in decades past. A study from Common Sense Media released in 2014 revealed that not only do kids read fewer books for pleasure as they grow up, that number has also dropped significantly in the last three decades as well. The number of young people who say they “never” or “almost never” read for pleasure has skyrocketed.

Which kids are reading for pleasure?

An encouraging 53% of nine year old kids read daily. Unfortunately, that number tends to drop off to less than 20% by the time kids reach their senior year of high school. Girls also read for pleasure more often than boys their age. On average, girls spend at least 10 more minutes reading per day than boys, which remains consistent throughout all age groups.

The fact is, outside of required reading lists for schools, many young people don’t bother picking up books in their spare time. They’re more likely to reach for a phone or laptop to check in with their friends online.

However, it’s well established that reading for pleasure is a reliable self-improvement method for people of all ages. And for young people in particular, reading can help teens understand that everyone has problems in their life. Not only that, but sometimes books can provide solutions to common teenage problems.

So where can young people find more books to read and enjoy?
Three out of four reading teens said they asked a parent, teacher, church leader, or another adult in their life to recommend inspirational books for students. Also, studies show that when kids can personally relate to a story’s character arc, they are much more likely to spend time reading.

So if you want kids to spend time hunting for books that aren’t on required reading lists for schools, then it’s crucial for adults to provide relevant recommendations. The best books for middle school students often feature protagonists of the same age.

What can parents do to help their children read more?

Studies show that children raised by avid book readers are more likely to read for pleasure themselves. If you’re worried your kids aren’t reading enough in their free time, then consider leading by example.

Remember: one great book experience can turn a young person into a lifelong reader.