Highlights from 2018 The Central Texas Reading Survey

BookSpring’s Central Texas Reading Survey offers intriguing insights into the state of reading in Central Texas, and the implications for early literacy efforts in our community. We launched the assessment to provide you with real-time statistics that measure reading habits among parents and caregivers with children under the age of 12.

Low Book Ownership Across Many Incomes

Research shows a minimum of 20 books in the home could mean three more years of education for a child over a child with no books.  

The 2018 Central Texas Reading Survey finds that 58% of families in Central Texas have fewer than 20 books at home right now. Income alone did not seem to be a primary determinate of book ownership. The survey provides valuable information about the reading habits of families in Central Texas, and raises many interesting questions about the state of reading in Central Texas, how to understand the situation of families in the region, and how to help those families cultivate reading habits that lead to future academic success.

Over 80,000 children currently live in poverty in the Greater Austin area according to the U.S. Census. Through strategic programs, we aim to impact these children’s lives by increasing their access to books in the home. The Central Texas Reading Survey reveals vital information about reading culture that underline the value of our programs and can help guide our efforts.       

Digital vs. Print 

Digital devices could be affecting in-home reading habits with nearly half of parents observing that their children spend more time playing on their phone or tablet than reading. Phones are the leading device used among children. 49% of children play on the phone/tablet more often than reading.

Print materials certainly have an impact on how we process information, according to Dr. Maryanne Wolf, an expert on the science of reading . We tend to skim on digital devices versus applying a deeper focus when presented with a book.

According our survey of Central Texas families, 45% choose digital devices as their top reading format. “This result may suggest that children are adopting similar technology use habits to their parents,” said Jim Henson, a principal at Strategic Research Associates, LLC and one of the directors of the survey, who cited the prevalence of mobile phones and, to a lesser degree, tablets as a factor that is shaping reading habits..

Yet despite the prevalence of digital devices, print remain the most dominant source for reading: half of those surveyed said that print was the format they most frequently used to read, while 39 percent said that they read most frequently on a phone.

BookSpring recognizes the proliferation of digital devices and is researching best ways to incorporate them into children’s literacy. 

Reading Aloud Together 

Parents overwhelmingly recognize the importance and enjoyment that comes from reading to and with their children, but 50% still read with their child less than once per day. 

Reading together has developmental benefits, it increases the parent-child bond, creating healthier relationships. This nurturing act has long-term developmental benefits that extend into adulthood.  

Children need interaction; they need adults and voices and interactions to nurture their constant learning. Read alouds are a great way of putting this to practice.  

According to Dr. Nicole Lynn Alston and Dr. Virginia W. Berninger, “The child is using the adult to make the book talk and, at the same time, using the book to make the adult talk, that is, using the book to elicit the most desirable kind of attention, the kind that happens on a lap, with pictures and familiar stories.” 

Reading Culture  

The survey also reports that over 90% of Central Texas parents and caregivers believe their children enjoy reading or being read to “some” or “a lot.” And overall, the survey results show an overwhelming support of reading, with most parents and caregivers associating reading as “extremely important” to their children’s academic success (92%).

Half of respondents do not read to or with their child on a daily basis, and 63% reported feeling bad for not reading with their child every day, especially among those in higher income brackets.

“More affluent parents are likely to have greater exposure to messages about the importance and efficacy of reading, leading to more concern over failing to enforce a daily reading habit,” said Joshua Blank of Strategic Research Associates, “Lower income caregivers may simply be more concerned with making ends meet, which is pretty understandable.”

Moving Forward

BookSpring aims to reach the estimated 80,000 children living in poverty in Central Texas according to the US Census. Through our healthcare, education, and community partners we will work strategically to reach these children and families to provide them with a cumulative stream of books from ages 0 to 12. With your help we can work toward our vision of 20 books in Central Texas homes by 2020.  

We will continue to promote the importance of reading together twice a day with their children to all parents and caregivers in our community through our programs, promotional events, and more. We recommend caregiver supervision for all children under age 13 on digital devices. Currently we are piloting the digital distribution of content and devices.     

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Strategic Research Associates LLC are Jim Henson, PhD and Joshua Black, PhD. They surveyed 600 residents living in Bastrop, Burnett, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson Counties from a representative online panel who indicated that they are the parent or frequent caregiver of a child currently under the age of 12 from August 9 through August 21, 2018.

Results were presented with responses weighted by race to better match the target population according to U.S. Census Bureau, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year estimates of the presence of children under 18 years of age in households in the aforementioned counties. The margin of error for the full sample is +/- 4.00 percent. 

View 2018 Central Texas Reading Survey Results here. 

Highlights from 2018 The Central Texas Reading Survey
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