Leonie, Bronwyn and Katya were pleased to present interim findings from the schools survey at the National Education Summit in Melbourne in June 2022. Based on over 3000 survey responses, this presentation included information on how often and how much time teenagers spend reading for pleasure and what they think about reading for pleasure as well as the major challenges to teens reading more.
The Teen Reading project is working with secondary schools in WA, NSW, QLD and VIC to survey Australian teenagers about their reading behaviour. This research aims to better understand how teenagers choose, read and discuss books, to ensure that they are better able to find the books they want to read and to keep them reading for pleasure.
To learn more about the survey, you can watch this short video
During the January school holidays we ran a short range of focus groups with teenagers in South Australia and regional and urban Victoria. We asked participants about sources of book recommendations, where they access books and how their reading habits are changing.
Family members and school librarians overwhelmingly stand out as the main sources of recommendations (‘… my school librarian: she’s really nice and she sort of picks up what kind of book you might like’). The school library is also the main source for teenagers to get their hands on books. Most participants also share their views of the books they are reading in their local communities – with extended family members, school friends, and familiar adults.
Participants talked about reading in order to take ‘a break for my brain’, to relax and unwind before sleep, but also to fulfil their curiosity about the world, using examples of historical and political events that feature in fiction. They also read non-fiction, such as mechanical engineering and environmental science, in order to be better informed to do something. ‘It’s so I can improve the environment, my interactions with others, and the outcome of my life’. Some told us they only read when they were bored and ‘that’s the only thing I have got to do’.
But no matter their motivation for reading, what participants look for in a book was quite consistent. For fiction, it’s a compelling narrative, with a plot twist, and ideally some humour. For non-fiction, it’s books that tap into and help them to develop existing interests.
I had a pleasurable conversation about reading, empathy, and our new project (at least a bit) on Melbourne RRR on Wednesday 13th November. You can catch it as a podcast. Also speaking was Jane Sullivan about memories of the books of childhood – well worth a listen.
Discovering a ‘good read’: Pathways to reading for Australian teens
Breaking news (July 2019) – the next phase of our research has received funding through the ARC’s Linkage Projects scheme.
The scheme is designed to support research of national benefit linked to government, industry and professional partners.
Our partners include Queensland University of Technology, University of Canterbury (Christchurch), the Australian Copyright Agency, the Australian Booksellers Association, the Australian Publishers Association, the Australian Library and Information Association, and the School Library Association of Victoria.
During the next few years we will map the network of influences that shape young people’s reading practices, including digital and other social contexts.
Working with our expert partners in the book, library and education industries, we will use our findings to develop strategies for empowering young Australians to read more.