Ask A Reader: Letting kids choose their own books

We’ve reviewed the questions submitted during our Ask A Reader campaign and realized that some of the answers could be found in recent research we’ve already conducted. Huzzah! So we’ve taken to the blog to share some of that data, which you’ll find in a series of posts over the next few weeks.

Q: At what age do kids choose their own reading materials?

We know from extensive research that giving a child the option to choose what they read contributes to the development of lifelong reading habits. When it comes to developing original content and bringing books into the marketplace, though, the question for publishers and retailers is whether parents allow their children to choose their reading materials in practice, and when children are allowed to choose their own reading materials. In our 2013 consumer study, Measuring Attitudes and Adoption of Digital Content for Kids and Teens, we asked parents whether they allow their children to choose their own books and we segmented the data by age.

Do parents consult their children before making a purchase?

It appears that most parents seek their children’s input on book purchases regardless of age, but that the practice becomes more common as children grow older, with 74% for children 9 to 13, up from 54% for children up to age 8.

It’s often argued that parents’ involvement and encouragement play a key role in getting kids reading. We asked parents whether they recommend reading materials to their children that they themselves enjoyed when they were young, and it turns out that nostalgia plays a fairly central role in children’s publishing. Over half of all parents surveyed say that they encourage their children to read the same books they read. Where we might have expected a drop in influence as children transition to the older age group, the difference between the two groups was small (33% for younger children vs. 38% for the older group). It seems that parents who want to share their favourite titles with their children will do so over a wide timespan of the child’s youth.

Do parents want their children to read the same books they read?

Young adult novels continue their rise to the top of the charts, as more and more adults feel comfortable with the genre, especially with runaway hit series like The Hunger Games and Divergent. But at what age do parents feel that it’s acceptable for their children to read young adult books? We asked parents to identify when they felt it was appropriate for children to transition from children’s books to young adult books.

When do parents feel it’s appropriate for children to read young adult books?

As we weren’t asking about specific titles, the results are fairly spread out. The largest group of parents (26%) felt that 11-13 is an appropriate age to start reading young adult books, while 22% said it depends on the title, and 21% allow their children to choose when they feel ready.

Thank you to everyone who submitted questions to Ask A Reader. Stay tuned for more answers in the form of blog posts and research reports.