Released: May 1, 2013

Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading

Part 3: Parents and Reading to Children

By , , and

Parents read to their children regularly and the parents of younger children read more often to their children than the parents of older children.  Half of all parents with children under 12 (50%) say they read to their child every day and an additional 26% do so a few times a week.  About one in ten read to their child about once a week, 6% a few times a month and 9% less often or never.

Parents whose youngest child is 0 to 5 years old are more likely than those whose youngest is 6 to 11 years old to read to their child every day (58% vs. 31%).  Parents whose youngest child is 6 to 11 years old are more likely than those with younger children to say they read to their child about once a week (16% vs. 6%) or a few times a month (12% vs. 3%).  Interestingly, parents who have both young children and teenagers are less likely to read to their young children every day than parents who only have children under 12 (29% vs. 60%) — data not shown in the table below.

Reading frequency to kids

Mothers are more likely than fathers to read to their child every day (55% vs. 45%) as are parents under 40 (55% vs. 43%), those with income over $50,000 (60% vs. 42%) and those with at least some college education (59% vs. 36%).

11 characteristics

The frequency with which parents read to children may reflect the value they place on encouraging their children to read, and read print books in particular.  More than nine in ten parents of minor children say it is important to them that their children read print books.  Eighty-one percent say it is very important, and an additional 13% say it is somewhat important.  The importance of children reading print books is high among parents of all minor children, regardless of the age of the child.  Mothers are more likely than fathers to say that reading print books is very important for children (86% vs. 74%).

12 parents say print books important

In our focus groups, one father said he valued reading print books because they helped model reading habits for his children:

“I’m reading like a book [on a tablet] and my children don’t know if I’m reading a book or if I’m playing on Twitter, so I think it’s important to have the book so that they go, ‘Oh Dad’s reading’ . . . not just, ‘Oh he’s updating his Facebook page.’  I think there is like a difference in that.”

Other focus group members voiced similar sentiments, saying they valued the physicality and the relative permanence of printed books because they can be passed down “from generation to generation.” One participant said while e-books have some advantages — for instance, they are more convenient to carry when traveling — “I like those books in my hands sometimes.”

Cite this publication: Carolyn Miller, Kathryn Zickuhr, Lee Rainie and Kristen Purcell. “Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (May 1, 2013) http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2013/05/01/parents-children-libraries-and-reading/, accessed on July 23, 2014.