Kids' Reading Habits Soared During the Pandemic, New Report Finds

A survey from Epic finds children spent a lot of their time reading during the pandemic—and it improved their well-being. Here are simple ways to get your little one to want to read too.

The pandemic has been tough on kids, but a new report has found a positive: their reading habits soared.

Epic, a digital reading platform for kids, released a report in May 2021 looking at the reading habits of 50 million kids 12 and under. It found an 89 percent increase in reading on the platform in 2020 compared to 2019. And parents surveyed said reading was their children's second "most preferred activity" after watching TV.

The report found kids read an extra hour every month, averaging 100 minutes per week. Parents said their little ones read "for fun" four or more times each week. Kids also read the most in June and July, which Kevin Donahue, co-founder of Epic, calls "unusual" since kids typically read less in the summer. In fact, a 2018 Scholastic Corporation study found 20 percent of kids didn't read a single book over the summer.

In a year when mental health has been at the forefront, the report found that reading also helps children's well-being. "Sixty-nine percent of kids were reported to be happy after they read, with humorous books being the top genre of the year," the report says. And nearly three-fourths of parents said reading improved their child's "creativity, curiosity, self-confidence, and willingness to try new things."

young boy wearing glasses reading book
Illustration by Francesca Spatola; Getty (1)

So how can you get your little ones to want to read, whether a physical book or reading one on a phone or tablet? First, let them choose what they want to read. The report shows allowing kids to choose their reading material makes a big difference with 72 percent of them reading more in those instances. "As a father, I have seen the impact of reading firsthand with my own daughter, and hope that these findings will reassure parents of the value of self-directed reading—and to not only encourage more reading, but ultimately give their kids the freedom to read for fun and choose books that interest them most, knowing how positive the benefits are," says Donahue.

And don't worry too much about what they decide to pick up. "Don't panic if they pick graphic novels or books about seemingly frivolous topics—the many benefits of reading are still being achieved and as their reading confidence and enjoyment grows, so will their interests," adds Donahue. Graphic novels also do offer kids several benefits, including introducing them to more complex words, better reading comprehension scores, and better recall.

Some more ideas: Donahue suggests parents encourage reading as a "fun" activity and a part of their routine outside of school. Show your kids how much you love reading too. "Let them catch you reading and talk to them about your favorite books and the memories you have as a kid reading," says Donahue.

And if you have the time and resources, why not start a book club for your kid and their friends? Of course, that can also be done virtually during the pandemic. Check out our guide on how to run a book club for kids.

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