Literacy as a Leisure Activity Free-Time Preferences of Older Children and Young Adolescents Research Article
Research Article  |   April 01, 2005
Literacy as a Leisure Activity
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Marilyn A. Nippold
    University of Oregon, Eugene
  • Jill K. Duthie
    University of Oregon, Eugene
  • Jennifer Larsen
    University of Oregon, Eugene
  • Corresponding author: e-mail:
Article Information
Development / School-Based Settings / Normal Language Processing / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Research Articles
Research Article   |   April 01, 2005
Literacy as a Leisure Activity
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, April 2005, Vol. 36, 93-102. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2005/009)
History: Received April 5, 2004 , Accepted May 12, 2004
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, April 2005, Vol. 36, 93-102. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2005/009)
History: Received April 5, 2004; Accepted May 12, 2004
Web of Science® Times Cited: 41

Purpose: Literacy plays an important role in the development of language in school-age children and adolescents. For example, by reading a variety of books, magazines, and newspapers, students gain exposure to complex vocabulary, and reading becomes a prime opportunity for learning new words. Despite the importance of reading for lexical development, little is known about the pleasure reading habits of today’s youth. The first goal of this investigation was to examine the preferences of older children and young adolescents with respect to reading as a leisure-time activity and its relationship to other free-time options that are likely to compete for their attention. The second goal was to examine the amount of time that young people spend reading for pleasure each day and the types of materials they most enjoy reading. The third goal was to determine if preferences for free-time activities and reading materials would evince age- and gender-related differences during the period of development from late childhood through early adolescence (ages 11–15 years). The findings could serve as a reference point for understanding what is reasonable to expect of students during this age range.

Method: The participants were 100 sixth graders (mean age=11;7 [years;months]) and 100 ninth graders (mean age=14;8) attending public schools in western Oregon. Each group contained an equal number of boys and girls, all of whom spoke English as their primary language and were considered to be typical achievers. All participants completed a survey concerning their preferred free-time activities and reading materials. They also reported the average amount of time they spent reading for pleasure each day.

Results: The most popular free-time activities were listening to music/going to concerts, watching television or videos, playing sports, and playing computer or video games. Least preferred activities were cooking, running or walking, writing, and arts and crafts. Reading was moderately popular. The most popular reading materials were magazines, novels, and comics; least popular were plays, technical books, and newspapers. Interest in pleasure reading declined during this age range (11–15 years), and boys were more likely than girls to report that they spentno time reading for pleasure.

Clinical Implications: Given the importance of reading tolexical development in school-age children and adolescents, reading should be promoted as a leisure activity during these years. School-based speech-language pathologists (SLPs), in their role as language consultants, can benefit from understanding the pleasure-reading patterns of today’s youth. It is especially important for SLPs to monitor these patterns in students who have language disorders, as it is common for these young people to experience deficits in reading and in lexical development. Fortunately, much can be done in school settings to encourage strong literacy habits in all students if SLPs work collaboratively with teachers, principals, psychologists, librarians, parents, and students. Suggestions are offered for ways to encourage young people to spend more time reading for pleasure.

We express sincere gratitude to the children and adolescents who participated in this research project and to the teachers and administrators who granted permission for the project to take place at their schools and who helped to schedule the testing sessions.
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