Young adults more likely to read than those who are 30 and up, says Pew report

Study participants between the ages of 16 and 29 were more likely to have read a book in the last year than those 30 and older, but young adults are less likely to value the place of a library in a community.

Melanie Stetson Freeman
Naperville North High School senior John Baird lies on the library floor with a book of quotations doing research for English class in 2000.

According to a new Pew study, those under 30 are still picking up books – and doing so more often than older adults.

88 percent of Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 that were involved in the study said they have read a book in the last 12 months, compared to 79 percent of adults 30 and older. 

In addition, study participants who are under 30 and those who are that age and above were almost equally likely to have used a library or bookmobile in the last year at the time of the study, with 50 percent of those under 30 saying they had done so and 47 percent of those 30 and above having used one. Younger participants were more likely to have used the website for a library within that past year, with 36 percent having done so. 28 percent of those 30 and over said they had used the site. 

However, 36 percent of those between 16 and 29 responded that they “know little or nothing about the local library’s services” and only 19 percent of that group said they would be “major[ly] impact[ed]” by their local library closing as opposed to 32 percent of those 30 and over responding in that way. They were also less likely to agree that “it would have a major impact on their community,” with 51 percent of the younger generation agreeing as opposed to 67 percent of those who are 30 and older. 

The report also noted that those under 30 often have different routines based on their age. “There are actually three different ‘generations’ of younger Americans with distinct book reading habits, library usage patterns, and attitudes about libraries,” the report read. “One ‘generation’ is comprised of high schoolers (ages 16-17); another is college-aged (18-24), though many do not attend college; and a third generation is 25-29.”

Of those “generations,” the Pew Report noted that those who are 16 and 17 “are more likely to read (particularly print books), more likely to read for work or school, and more likely to use the library for books and research than older age groups. They are the only age group more likely to borrow most of the books they read instead of purchasing them,” though they were less likely to agree with the value of a library in a community and to say they would be impacted by a library closing. Those who are between 18 and 24 “are less likely to use public libraries than many other age groups… They are more likely to purchase most of the books they read than borrow them” and those between 25 and 29 “are less likely than college-aged adults to have read a book in the past year… library users in this group are less likely than younger patrons to say their library use has decreased, and they are much more likely to say that various library services are very important to them and their family.”

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