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Joy Dennis' LibGuide: Research on Leisure Reading

A Guide for High School Students to Engage in and Enjoy Leisure Reading

Wilhem and Smith Article Points

Article Highlights (Quoted)

"Many students spend hours upon hours reading outside school even as they often rejected the reading they were asked to do inside school."

"Children's leisure reading is important for educational attainment and social mobility. The mechanism for this is increased cognitive development."

"Increased cognitive processes accounts for the surprising finding that leisure reading was also correlated with increased math performance!"

"Literacy is essential to not only accessing information and staying current, it is also essential to doing work in the world."


Reading is necessary and powerful.

Leisure readers are active, not passive in how they interact with text. 

Adolescent leisure readers derive 4 types of pleasure from reading: intellectual pleasure, social pleasure, the pleasure of work and the pleasure of play.

Wilhelm, J. D., & Smith, M. W. (2016). The Power of Pleasure Reading: What We Can Learn from the Secret Reading Lives of Teens. English Journal105(6), 25–30.

Statistics on Teen Leisure Reading


Hours Spent Reading Per Day by Adolescents %
2 or more hours 42%
1 hour 32%
less than 1 hour 11%
More than 3 hours 15%
How adolescent leisure readers spend their free time %
Reading (books, magazines, newspapers) 18%
Watching television 16%
Browsing the internet 35%
Texting 14%
Hanging out with friends 13%
Sleeping 2%
Listening to music 1%
When adolescents read %
At night at home 51%
After school in the library 20%
On weekends 6%
During school holidays 7%
Spare time 16%
Reasons adolescents read for leisure %
To get more information 46%
To be educated 34%
To learn new things 9%
To improve myself 3%
Reading keeps me busy 3%
I can virtually travel 3%
Reading supports the brain 3%
Sources of reading materials %
The public library 40%
School 20%
A bookshop 16%
Parents 12%
Friends 10%
Internet 2%

Source: Tlou, C., & Snyman, M. (2020). Leisure reading: a case study of adolescent readers at Letlhabile Community Library. South African Journal of Libraries & Information Science86(1), 1–13.

Washington Post Article Highlights

Leisure Reading Plummets in the U.S. 

Source: The Washington Post (citation below)

Results from the American Time Use Survey reveal that the number of American adults not reading any book in a given year has tripled between 1978 and 2014. 

Although the easy culprit may seem to be recent developments in entertainment technology, such as video games, television and social media, data shows that reading has been declining since the 1980s. 

"In 2017, the average American spent more than 2 hours, 45 minutes per day watching TV, every day of the year or nearly 10 times the amount of time they devoted to reading for pleasure." 

Ingraham, c. (2018, June 29) Leisure Reading in the U.S. is at an All Time Low. Washington Post.