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Readers and non-readers

21 April 2014

New research carried out by DJS Research Ltd on behalf of the book charity Booktrust has found a divide in the UK between readers and non-readers, linked to wellbeing and deprivation. A significant number of adults have negative attitudes to reading - despite the fact that people who regularly pick up a book are, on average, more satisfied with life and are more likely to think that what they do in life is worthwhile.

Nearly a fifth (18%) of the 1,500 adults surveyed never read physical books, and 71% never read ebooks; a fifth (20%) never buy books. More than half (56%) of 18 to 36-year-olds prefer the internet and social media to book reading. Among all respondents, 45% prefer TV and DVDs to reading. The survey identified ‘page-turners' who make up 50% of the population and ‘button pushers' who prefer activities such as watching TV and DVDs.

Those who never read live in more deprived areas, with a higher proportion of children living in poverty. Those who read less are also more likely to be male, under 30, and to have lower levels of qualifications, happiness, and satisfaction within their lives.

More encouraging figures included 76% agreeing with the idea that reading improves lives. 28% of adults read books every day, and a further 22% read at least weekly. The majority of readers (76%) prefer print books, and only 10% prefer ebooks. Positively, the average number of books owned by the average respondent was 200, with more than half owing more than fifty.

The survey did not look at what might be done to counter the low levels of reading amongst some sectors and especially in more deprived areas. A good place to start though would be in schools, where many children do not learn to read with real facility and enjoyment. The importance of parents reading to children could be emphasised even more. For adults, it's clear that Quick Reads, short, engrossing books, often written by well-known writers, have been shown to have a positive impact on slow readers or those lacking in confidence. Finding a way to get into reading is shown by the Quick Reads research to have an important effect on confidence, which can then be a life-changer for the individual concerned.

Writers and readers, we're all linked together. Whatever encourages reading and especially reading for pleasure must be an important part of this for all writers.