A new study from Booktrust has shown that the UK is divided in terms of reading, with those who read less more likely to be male, under 30 and with lower levels of qualifications, happiness, and satisfaction in their lives.
Booktrust commissioned DJS Research to survey the reading habits of 1,500 adults in the UK. The results showed that 34% of the AB (more affluent) socioeconomic group read every day, compared to 22% of the DE (working class or lower income earners) group. More than a quarter of DEs (27%) said they never read, while only 13% of AB group questioned said they never read.
In addition, the AB group owned an average of 376 books, compared the DE group’s 156. ABs were less likely to think the internet will replace books.
In terms of gender, men under the age of 30 are least likely to read, the study found. Only 14% of men aged 18-29 read every day, compared to 31% of men aged 60 and over. With women, 18% aged 18-29 and 48% over 60 said they read every day.
Looking at the readers as a whole, the research showed that 18% of adults in England never read physical books, with 56% believing that computers will replace books in 20 years. 27% of people prefer the internet and social media to reading books, a figure which rises to 56% among 18-30 year olds.
However, those who do read are positive about their experiences, with 76% saying that reading improves their lives.
Viv Bird, chief executive of Booktrust, said: "This research indicates that frequent readers are more likely to be satisfied with life, happier and more successful in their professional lives. But there is a worrying cultural divide linked to deprivation. There will never be a one size fits all solution when it comes to social mobility, but reading plays an important role – more action is needed to support families."
The research was released to coincide with the Reading Changes Lives conference, hosted by Booktrust in London today (11th March). During a discussion session at the conference, the panel of children’s laureate Malorie Blackman, MP Liam Fox, commissioner of the Child Poverty Commission Anne Marie Carrie, MP Alan Johnson and NIACE director Carol Taylor all stressed the importance of education.
“Social mobility has stagnated in this country for too long and reading is absolutely vital [to social mobility],” said Carrie. “This isn’t an option.”
The panel agreed that children should be given the gift of a love of reading but were divided over the role of libraries, with Fox pondering whether it would be more effective to give children a Kindle. “Youngsters are used to getting information in a different way. I don’t really care if kids learn from a book or from their ipad, the reading is what’s important,” he said. However Blackman argued that libraries were vital, saying that the way the service was being dismantled was "very disheartening".