The 2021 Central Texas Reading Survey provides great insight into the lives of those in our community and shows us a snapshot of what their reading habits have looked like over the past year. Now in its fifth year, this survey helps indicate areas for improvement in Central Texas and gives us an idea of who our beneficiaries are. This information helps us target our efforts to the programs that are needed most in our area and improve literacy for our unique population.
Physical Book Ownership Down
Children’s books owned at home went down significantly from last year, 20+ books going down 23.8% from 48% in 2020. For the first year, we also surveyed in Spanish, and the results for this population were even lower, with only 5% reporting 20 or more children’s books at home. This is likely due to the negative impacts of the pandemic, job loss, and economic stress on families. For the first time, the majority of all responses fell into the category of having only 1-4 children’s books at home for families with children 12 and under. Total books owned–including books for adults– had a similar status, with 50+ books going down by 23% and 1-4 books increasing 10%. However, the original benchmark research on which this survey is based did not differentiate children’s books vs. books in general, pointing to a scholarly culture of books in the home being a predictor of more years of education at 20+ books (Evans et al, 2010). The responses for the number of total books owned remaining at 20+ books for 44% of homes shows a positive outlook for nearly half of children and families in our area.
Digital Device Reading Goes Up
There was a 10% increase in the number of surveyors who said they read with their child or children once a day. Fewer people said they only read once a week or month, which shows growth from last year where respondents reported less frequent reading habits. 88% of respondents said they used a tablet for personal reading, which is an 11% rise from the previous year. There was a large jump in the number of respondents who said they read with their children on a tablet or electronic device as well. 86% of people surveyed said they use their tablet for reading together, which is a notable increase from last year where only 63% of respondents said the same. This shows a change in the way children are accessing reading materials, moving to more electronic forms of reading versus the traditional physical texts. This could be an effect of the pandemic, where physical books were not as accessible. This information is helpful to our programs, supporting our efforts to offer more free and open online reading sources and engaging material for children and families.
Reading Habits Remain Consistent
Reading habits stayed relatively the same, with margins of change all under 10%. Reading for pleasure, work, school, and self-improvement were all similar to the responses from the previous year. The majority of responses said they read for these many reasons on a daily basis. With the change over to electronic devices, we are hoping to increase interest in reading through our programs and reach those who may not have similar access to online resources.
Recognition is Up Across All Programs
Recognition of BookSpring and its services went up tremendously from last year’s results, with a 40% increase in knowledge of our organization and what we do. Last year, only 27% of respondents said they were familiar with our organization. This year, that number jumped up to 67%. This is a great measurement for how our organization has been marketing itself in the community, as well as online. Across the board, awareness went up for every program we offer. Books for Me, a program we offer to schools to receive brand new books at a low cost, had its recognition go up by 48%. Our Summer Success program that provides free books to students to keep their reading skills intact over summer break had its recognition increase by 38%, and our ReadWell program’s recognition increased by 42%. This is great news for us at Bookspring because it will hopefully lead to new recipients for our programs and increased funding for them as well. These findings also show our marketing efforts and in-person events have worked well to spread awareness of what we offer.
Income Variants Create Possible Skew
While the age of our respondents stayed mostly the same between years, race was a bit more skewed than in our previous years. This year, 66% of those surveyed identified as white, compared to only 33% in 2020. In addition, the incomes of those surveyed landed with 65% of the responses indicating their income to be $40k-$80k. This is a notable variation from last year’s results, where only 33% of respondents said the same. We value input from any income category, but our target demographics fall under the response of “under $40k” as their annual income. The responses from our 2021 survey indicated that only 16% of those surveyed identified themselves within that category.
Pandemic Changing Reading Habits
Overall, there are many factors to consider when looking through this data. The continual rampage of Covid-19 through our communities is not to go unnoticed. This factor has most likely contributed to many changes, such as the increase of reading on electronic devices and the change in books at home. Libraries were shut down, schools were closed, and moved to online platforms, all of this contributing to a change in our community’s reading habits. As we serve our current programs in these times, we will take into consideration the effects of this pandemic and work to improve literacy in the Central Texas community.
Learn how you can make a positive impact
There are many ways you can help get more books into the hands and homes of children. Visit our Support section for information about donations and volunteering.
Methods and Credits
This study was conducted in October 2021 with a panel screened for language, location, and the presence of children in the home using Mechanical Turk. There were 203 respondents to the English survey and 83 respondents to the Spanish survey that was translated by Idali Reyes. All of the questions remained the same as in the previous four years. Using MTurk is a change from the previous survey recruitment method and some of the differences in this year’s results are attributed to this variance. With a lower overall response rate, the margin of error was not calculated for this survey. Sarah Hill was instrumental in launching and monitoring the deployment. Jessy Morris analyzed and compiled this report.
By: Jessy Morris, Volunteer Coordinator
BookSpring continues to thank the University of Texas at Austin Moody College of Communication and SRA, LLC for their help in developing and deploying this survey in the past, allowing an annual benchmark to monitor our work across Central Texas.