More people reading in their spare time: National Library Board survey

While the majority of adults surveyed read the news or articles on the Internet, only 34 per cent read books more than once a week ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE – More adults and teenagers in Singapore are reading in their leisure time, according to a study by the National Library Board (NLB).

The NLB’s 2021 National Reading Habits Study showed that 95 per cent of adults last year consumed reading materials such as the news, online articles and books in their spare time more than once a week – up from 88 per cent in 2018.

Teenagers, too, seemed to be reading more for leisure, with 86 per cent of older teenagers doing so more than once a week – slightly higher than 2018’s figure of 83 per cent.

Not all forms of reading material, however, were equally popular. The proportion of adults who read articles on social media or websites more than once a week rose to 76 per cent, up from 59 per cent. Meanwhile, 83 per cent read the news more than once a week, up from 77 per cent. Only 34 per cent read books more than once a week, compared with 25 per cent in 2018.

As for older teenagers, 73 per cent read articles on social media or websites more than once a week – up from 64 per cent in 2018. The proportion who read books for leisure more than once a week remained unchanged, at 30 per cent.

Digital content such as e-books also seems to be getting more popular with some segments of the population.

Among the adults who read books in 2021, 58 per cent read at least one e-book – up from 55 per cent in 2018. Among older teenagers, however, the figure was 60 per cent, down from 64 per cent.

A new survey question on the use of video-streaming platforms showed that 91 per cent of adults and 96 per cent of older teenagers used such platforms for pleasure, while 81 per cent of adults and 85 per cent of older teenagers used these platforms to keep up with current events.

NLB surveyed a total of 3,774 Singapore residents between July and December 2021, via online and door-to-door interviews. Among them were 2,918 adults aged 20 years and above, 692 older teenagers aged 17 to 19, and 164 younger teenagers aged 13 to 16.

The survey defines reading materials as physical books, e-books, news, magazines, reports and online articles – articles, blogs or essays posted on social media or websites.

Fieldwork for the teenage groups was not completed because of Covid-19 safe management measures. While those samples are not fully representative, the findings for older teenagers are “largely representative”, the study said.

NLB’s chief executive Ng Cher Pong said in a statement: “Notwithstanding the impact of the pandemic on our lives and lifestyles over the past two years, it is encouraging to see that reading and learning are constants for most Singaporeans.”

He added: “The survey also shows that there is growing preference for digital content, especially among the youth. Under LAB25 (Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025), we are evolving and enhancing NLB’s omni-channel service offerings, which will enable our patrons – both young and old – to continue reading and learning anytime and anywhere.”

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