Almost 400,000 adult New Zealanders did not read a book in 2016, a survey has found.
The New Zealand Book Council commissioned the survey Book Reading in New Zealand to better understand Kiwis’ reading habits.
The survey, which was conducted by Horizon Research, found that 394,000 New Zealand adults had not even started reading a book in 2016.
Book Reading in New Zealand is the first survey of its kind so there is no previous data to compare its results to.
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However reading for pleasure is on the wane throughout the OECD. A 2010 report found that between 2000 and 2009, daily reading for enjoyment dropped five percentile points on average across OECD countries.
Reading for pleasure has a number of proven benefits, including improved academic performance for school-aged children and the retention of cognitive abilities in adults.
The survey found that non-readers had a six per cent lower average household income, and were half as likely as those who read for pleasure to have education qualifications above NCEA level two.
Book Council chief executive Jo Cribb said that while the number of non-readers was concerning, it was not above what her organisation expected.
“We knew the literacy figures already, so we knew we were going to get quite a strong flavour coming through of people who can’t or don’t read.”
Non-readers gave a number of reasons for not reading, but a lack of time was the most prevalent one. 31 per cent of people who hadn’t read a book said they did not have time, while 24 per cent said they just didn’t enjoy reading.
The biggest demographic of non-readers was young men. Cribb said the Book Council would look to promote young men reading in a future initiative.
Today’s young men were or would become fathers, she said, and it was important for their children to see them reading.
“If you don’t see adults reading, it just doesn’t become part of your way of being, right?
“And we know that if you read for pleasure when you’re a child, you’re going to be more academically successful. The research is just so clear,” Cribb said.
“When we’re reading in front of our kids we’re setting the next generation up for success, and sometimes I think we forget about that.”
The report also contained plenty of good news about New Zealand’s reading habits.
88 per cent of the adult population read a book in 2016, although the survey’s criteria did not require readers to have finished a book to say they’d read it.
On average, people who said they had read a book for pleasure in 2016 had read 20 books that year.
The study surveyed a sample of 2,082 adults online. They were weighted to match national demographics.
Women were more likely to read books than men, and female readers read more books than males.
Almost one in five of adults read fiction in 2016, with crime, thriller and adventure novels the most popular genre.
76 per cent of adults read non-fiction. Biographies were the favourite genre.
New Zealand fiction appeared to have had a good year, with 52 per cent of adults having read a book by a New Zealand author.