Kids & Family Reading Report™

A biennial national survey of parents’ and children’s reading attitudes and behaviors.

Reading in the Lives of Children and Parents

For more than a decade, the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report has been highlighting the views of both kids and parents on reading books for fun and the influences that impact kids’ reading frequency. The most recent data collected this past school year adds to the growing base of research showing that our nation’s children are in dire need of support in their literacy journeys. This data also demonstrates the continued ways that reading books for fun is central to and enhances children’s and families’ lives, but wanes in a child’s routine as they age.


Looking at the reading frequency of children ages 6–17, levels have held steady in recent years after declining in the early 2010s. However, while the majority of children read a book for fun at least once a week, only 28% of children say they are frequent readers (read 5-7 days a week). 

The benefits of reading are experienced most by younger readers, and there remains a persistent decline in reading enjoyment, frequency, and perceived importance as children get older. Most notably, we are seeing a significant drop in reading enjoyment as kids age (70% among 6–8-year-olds vs. 46% among 12–17-year-olds), and this decline is mirrored in kids’ reading frequency as they age (46% of 6–8-year-olds vs. 15% of 15–17-year-olds). 

While these declines are persistent, it is worth noting that overall, when it comes to reading enjoyment and importance, at least half of all kids ages 6–17 say they: 

The role parents play in reading encouragement

Similar to the trends we’re seeing among kids, a belief among parents that reading for fun is extremely/very im- portant also decreases as their children get older. The majority (83%) of parents of kids ages 0–17 believe that it is extremely/very important that their child reads books for fun, but while 89% of parents of kids ages 6-8 feel that reading for fun is extremely/very important, this view is only shared by 67% of parents of kids ages 15–17. 

In addition to the majority of parents believing that it is important that their child reads books for fun, parents also wish their kids would read more. Since 2018, there has been an increase in parents of 6–17-year-olds who say they wish their kids would read more for fun. As we heard from the parent of a 17-year-old, “My 17-year-old son no longer reads for fun. I would love for him to do this but he is resistant.” 

Having adults in a child’s life who prioritize reading is key to developing frequent readers. Six in 10 (59%) kids say that a lot or nearly everyone in their life enjoys reading, with children who are frequent readers more likely than those who are infrequent readers to say that a lot or nearly everyone in their lives enjoys reading (80% of frequent readers vs. 26% of infrequent readers). Fortunately, nearly all children (95%) report that they have someone in their life who enjoys reading. Children’s primary reading role models are their parents (83%), but also include siblings (40%) and teachers (34%). 

The Growing Battle for Mind & Culture Share 

With more participation in structured activities and digital engagement, reading is facing increased competition for children’s free time. The Kids & Family Reading Report shows that many children’s digital activities have risen since 2018, including playing games or using apps on an electronic device (84% in 2022 vs. 74% in 2018), watching videos on YouTube (82% vs. 75%), and going online for fun (61% vs. 55%). Of note, children ages 6–11 are increasingly partici- pating in digital activities for fun, including a 13% increase in watching videos on YouTube. Most parents (86%) say they wish their child would do more things that did not involve screen time, an increase from 80% in 2018. As one parent of a 9-year-old shared, “I’d like my son to spend more time reading than on screens of various sorts.” 

Knowing that screens are immensely popular among children today, it’s understandable that half of parents of 6- to-17-year- old children surveyed say their child needs at least a little encouragement to read books for fun, and most parents (86%) take some action to try to encourage their child to do so. For parents of school-aged children, the most common ways to encourage their child to read are letting their child choose a book from a school book fair or order form sent home by a teacher (58%), taking their child to a public library (49%), and having children’s books at home (47%). For parents of children ages five and younger, the most common action taken, by far, is to always have children’s books at home (71%). 

The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic 

The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted children’s educations and their families’ lives in both measurable and immeasurable ways, and as the recent NAEP scores show, reading for fun among today’s kids is even more worrisome than many may have realized. Supporting this data, our survey found that one-third of parents of 6- to 17-year-olds (35%) believe their child has fallen behind in reading skills since the pandemic began, despite a belief from the vast majority of parents (86%) that teachers did the best they could during the pandemic. 

Additionally, half of parents of 6-to 17-year-olds say they believe their child’s mental health was negatively affected by their pandemic experiences. 

As our data shows, literacy plays a role in children’s mental health: while 27% of children ages 12-17 say their emotional or mental health is worse compared to before the pandemic, when we look further into this percentage to account for reading frequency, infrequent readers are more likely than frequent readers (32% vs 23%) to hold this sentiment. 

Infrequent readers were also more likely than more frequent readers to say they have felt nervous or anxious, sad or depressed, and lonely. 

Additional research from Scholastic Research & Validation and the Yale Child Study Center-Scholastic Collaborative for Child & Family Resiliencepoints to the powerful influence of books and literacy across a variety of metrics including mental health. It also reinforces that a love of reading can be a powerful tool in supporting mental health, including boosting self-esteem, increasing empathy, and mitigating anxiety and depression. The Kids & Family Reading Report demonstrates that the key ingredients to fostering a love of reading are attainable, and that as we continue to work towards rebounding from the lasting effects of the pandemic and developing the next generation of readers, literacy can be an important factor in supporting children throughout their lives. 

For additional insight into this research, read an opinion piece in The Washington Post that includes these trendline findings, discusses the current literacy crisis amongst kids, and features an interview with Sasha Quinton, EVP and President, Scholastic School Reading Events, about what can be done to reignite a passion for reading.