More kids read Facebook, e-mails than read books

Most children today would rather read Facebook and newspapers than traditional scripts and texts. But children aren't reading less; and online media may be helping literacy.

One in six children are choosing to spend more time emailing, social networking, and sending text messages than reading books -- a study by the National Literacy Trust has found.

School children -- the age bracket of the younger Generation Z, an age range with an increase technology focus than their older Generation Y brothers' and sisters' -- may not necessarily reading any less than previously thought.

The majority of teenagers are exposed to language and written word through social media -- like Facebook and Twitter -- and sending text messages to their friends.

But are children today reading less of the 'good stuff', like Dickens, Wordsworth and Shakespeare -- opting for 'Tracey down the road' and 'Billy from school'?

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Fewer than 50 percent of British children aged between 8 and 17 read a novel every month, outside of the school classroom. However, one in six children said they "rarely" read outside the classroom.

While young people are not reading any less than previously thought, the range of text being read is more diverse than ever.

From text messages, magazines, emails and social networking sites like Facebook as the top choice for reading material, e-books were ranked the lowest in choice of reading.

But as girls were more likely to read song lyrics -- arguably, a source of poetry -- boys are likely to read non-fiction, like newspapers and manuals.

Though the director of research, Jonathan Douglas, worries that traditional reading material will cause adult literacy issues -- I personally do not see the correlation.

There are two issues here:

Blogs and online media: The Generation Y and Z are social media junkies. While Facebook dominates as the world's largest social network, many children under the age of 13 are still not permitted to use the site and turn elsewhere for self-expression.

But while reading may be an issue highlighted by this research, writing and reading are not mutually exclusive. Many are expressing themselves through blogs and micro-blogging sites, such as Posterous, Tumblr and Twitter.

Writing can be more self-expressive than finding meaning in reading -- and young people, though privacy should be highlighted as an issue, should be encouraged to write emotive and thought-provoking pieces.

The evolution of language: A diverse language spread can benefit young people just as reading traditional texts can be.

Language evolves, from "LOL" to "woot" -- these terms are here to stay. But though a wide vocabulary can benefit academically, a mix of both traditional and new words can be a much-needed cultural shift for many.

I suspect that modern literacy, which includes technological references and identifiable attributions can engage younger people, who are more likely to relate to these things.

The full report can be found here [PDF].

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