Report on young people and reading by the Germán Sánchez Ruíperez Foundation
Young people and reading. Qualitative report and proposals (Contemporary Laboratory for the Promotion of Reading) by the Germán Sánchez Ruíperez Foundation.
The Germán Sánchez Ruíperez Foundation provides us with this report on young people and their reading habits. This study has been executed and organized to better understand the relationship of these people with reading using tools of a qualitative nature.
As shown by the data that appear in other studies such as the Study on Reading Habits and Book Purchasing, published year after year by the Federation of Publishers’ Guilds of Spain (FGEE), children and young people (especially women) are the age groups with the most frequent and intense relationship with reading. They are also the biggest consumers of movies, music, sports, eSports, series on VoD platforms, and those who surf the Internet the most; in other words, they are the most curious or regular readers.
The starting premise of the Fundación Germán Sánchez Ruipérez (FGSR) was based on investigating more about the causes of these behaviors, trying to provide some hypothesis about the future relationship with reading and understanding what are the stimuli or reasons for reading and what are the variables that influence to a greater extent their relationship with reading books, their will, preferences, stimuli, obstacles, and other factors.
This inquiry is formulated at a time when, in spite of probable methodological errors, important challenges regarding children’s reading skills were noted in the last PISA report and doubts about the future relationship with the reading of adolescents and young people were noted.
The impact on reading behavior could be formulated as follows:
- Countries with earlier literacy, the extension of higher education, and industrialization favoring concentration had much higher reading rates than Spain when in our country these variables were very different.
- As Spain converges in these dimensions, reading rates also converge with those of other countries in Europe and North America. Especially with the successive incorporation of population cohorts with similar or higher educational levels than those of countries with higher reading rates.
- While this convergence of Spain with the reading rates of those countries that were much higher in this field has been taking place, other new variables have continued to operate: the countries with the highest rates have stagnated or have seen the reading behavior of their populations weaken.
- The studies that are appearing in those countries that are experiencing a weakening of the population’s relationship with reading give special importance to the younger generations.
Survey 1. Impact of technology on reading habits: Opinion is divided regarding the impact of technology and, especially, the constant presence of cell phones in our lives in relation to the possible decrease or increase in reading habits. Almost equal parts believe that screens have a strong impact in distracting or interrupting readers and that, from a positive perspective, they have contributed to the development of new platforms for reading or reading even different formats to paper.
Survey 2. On the time in which the reader distances himself from reading: There are no great percentage differences in the answers to this question, although a good part believes that it was in adolescence especially when there was abandonment or «rupture» with the reading habit. The young people themselves coincide in the focus groups, almost unanimously, on the contrary: the present moment is the one in which they are reading the most in their lives and reading works of higher quality or transcendental-decisive works.
Survey 3. Which people influence us to consume more literature: family and friends, although people close to us are the ones who seem to exert a decisive power to bring us closer to books, even at a great distance from the new literature prescribing agents that have been emerging in the chain, such as bloggers, book tubers, bookstagrammers. In the responses of young people, their greater dependence on these new profiles contrasts, although it is still not a majority.
Survey 4. How much influence do personal relationships have on reading: The answers to the previous question are reinforced by the answers, in this case, most of them declaring that a large part of the «blame» for their being readers today lies with those trusted people who once knew how to transmit to them the love of reading.
Survey 5. What period of your life has been most influenced by certain literary works? In this case, the answers of the unidentified public coincide with those of the young people consulted in the specific groups. Regardless of the supposed «desertions» in the field of reading that have occurred in youth, it is in that period in which the works that have influenced us in an outstanding way have passed through our hands.
Survey 6: What is the usual reading medium. Although the data show that in recent years the advance of digital reading has been increasing, in all the age groups consulted they opt for the paper book, a material and a format that carry implicit extra connotations not only linked to the convenience or readability of the texts.
Survey 7: About the situation in which we are living, what provokes us. Reading. Has your number of readings increased during confinement following the first months of the pandemic.
Survey 8: Has the library we have at home continued to increase in recent years? In the months following the quarantine, readers again turned to acquire new titles to further augment the family library, to the detriment of other more economical options» such as library lending, e-books (which are marketed at a lower price), or other avenues.
The vision that young people have would show us that the most relevant challenges of reading would be the following.
- Young people have a limited perception of the reality of reading. In all the interviews and meetings, a partial view of the possibilities of reading books for one reason or another has been evident. The limitation refers to relevant aspects such as the multiplicity of genres, the role of classics, or the reasons for reading in relation to its positive impact on other areas of life.
- The perception of reading is very much preferred to a personal activity that relaxes, but also generates isolation from society. This view is ambivalent because it can be a strength in favor of reading in the face of an increasingly widespread «digital fatigue», but it also implies a challenge because it is considered a factor of isolation from other people.
- The above observation is also related to the fact that it has been found that references to what has been read or is being read are disappearing from conversations, unlike what is done in groups of friends with the TV series they are following. The fact that reading is not present in conversations among friends implies two challenges: the weakening of the vision of reading as a cultural practice that is present in most of society and the disappearance of prescriptions in informal settings. This fact is especially relevant at a time in life when she feels that socializing with groups of friends is more important.
- Just as references to books in conversation are disappearing, what is becoming universal is the use of Internet-connected devices. The competition for available personal time is increasingly effective on the digital side because it is a type of leisure based on interaction and socialization, as well as short-lived content and low cognitive demand.
- There was a coincidence in statements about a low tolerance towards the cognitive effort, as shown by the repeated lamentations about the prescription of classic texts or complaints about the obligation to prepare worksheets or summaries of what has been read, together with the use of resources to simplify the assimilation of compulsory texts (summaries on the Internet or audiobooks).
- While enthusiasm for a given author, a saga, or a genre was noted, there was no discernment of the effort made by the professional world of books. The lack of perception of the role of the entire book value chain is manifested in the invisibility of the prestige or the guarantee that a particular publishing house can offer or, in an uninhibited way, the consideration of the Internet as a means from which to access books without having to buy them. This vision seems inconsistent with the statements on the quality of the experience of the printed book and raises the need to continue investigating this dimension from certain instances and, from another perspective, raises the convenience of working to make the quality attributes of the book industrial system comprehensible.
- One of the most relevant challenges that have emerged in the analysis of the results refers to the participants’ view on the insufficient impact of the educational center to strengthen the interest in reading. Although a considerable part of the participants has intervened thanks to the collaboration of the schools and teachers, this has not prevented their opinions from being very stark about the role of the school in its relationship with reading.
- There is a dissociation between the traditional vision of the public library as a center for access to books and the dynamics organized by the library team to promote the relationship between readers. The challenge here would seem to be to intensify in making more visible the more active side of the library, which seems to be very effective, through book clubs or book presentations.
- There is no coherent relationship between the role that young people attribute to reading and the real weight it has in the opportunities for professional and life development in a society whose economic center is the transformation of information into value creation.
- There is a lack of adequate knowledge of the reality of the leisure and training priorities of young people on the part of adults who work or live with them.
- The acceleration of the digital that has been experienced during the first half of 2020 (and which has stabilized as such during the following twelve months) should have a timely reflection in educational programs or instruments for measuring and intervening on the reading of adolescents and young people.
- There is no evaluation of the results of the most emblematic events designed to introduce books to young people or attract young audiences to reading (book fairs, festivals, etc.).