In a recent survey conducted by consumer insights company Pondering Panda, it was found that most young South Africans enjoy reading, and want to read more, but are held back by the cost and availability of books. 12 353 respondents, aged between 13 and 34 were interviewed across South Africa, and asked about their perceptions regarding reading and the availability of books. 71% claimed to be currently reading a book for their own enjoyment. Of those who weren’t currently reading, 84% were keen to find an enjoyable book to read.Young black South Africans were the most enthusiastic readers. 74% claimed to be reading an enjoyable book currently. Of those who were not reading a book, 88% said they would like a book to read. In comparison, 65% of whites, and 55% of both coloureds and Indians, claimed to be currently reading a book.
MD of Pondering Panda, Butch Rice in conversation with BizRadio’s Grant Jansen
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Among those reading a book at the time of the survey, only 28% obtained it from a library. In contrast, 30% bought the books they were reading, and 33% said they borrowed it, or got it from their parents. 9% obtained their books by other means. The survey also revealed that almost half of young South Africans found it difficult to get hold of books they liked – 44% claimed that finding a book they would enjoy was hard for them.
In terms of their ability to read English, respondents claimed to be doing well. 81% said it was either ‘not very difficult’ or ‘not at all difficult’ for them to read English. However, they still wanted to improve, with 61% of all respondents saying they would like more help and practice when it came to reading English.
A separate survey, which interviewed 10 169 respondents, also aged between 13 and 34, across South Africa, investigated some of the barriers preventing young people from reading. It found that the cost of books was a significant barrier for young South Africans when it came to reading more. Almost 9 in 10 respondents (88%) said they would definitely buy more books if they cost less. This survey also found that more than 1 in 4 young people did not have easy access to library services. 71% said they lived near a library where they could borrow books, but 28% claimed there was no library facility in their area.
Shirley Wakefield, spokesperson for Pondering Panda said, “The high number of young people who are currently reading a book or who would like to read is very encouraging – it shows that there is a real thirst for books among young South Africans, in spite of the inroads that digital media is making. However, with almost half of respondents finding it difficult to find books they like, and more than a quarter without easy access to library services, there’s a lot more that needs to be done. Encouraging reading can have a massive impact on education in South Africa, and the government needs to support youth wholeheartedly in this regard. Two things it can do right now are expand the library system, and make books VAT-exempt, so that they become more affordable for young people.”
Interviews for the first survey were carried out on cell phones between the 9th and 13th of February, across South Africa. Interviews for the second survey were carried out, using the same methodology, between the 12th and 18th of February. All responses were weighted to be nationally representative in terms of age, gender and race.
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