Research findings - two nations: the 'Reading Divide'

Research findings - two nations: the 'Reading Divide'
11 March 2014


A nationwide reading habits study reveals worrying indications that the UK is divided into two nations.

50% of the population are 'page turners' - those who read daily or weekly and reap the benefits that books offer. Across the cultural divide are the 'button pushers' - people who prefer activities such as watching TV and DVDs.


The study, carried out by DJS Research Ltd, indicates links between deprivation and not reading books - those who never read live in more deprived areas, with a higher proportion of children living in poverty. Those who read less are also more likely to be male, under 30, and have lower levels of qualifications, happiness, and satisfaction within their lives.


One Reading Habits study participant said:

The fact is, it's 2013 not 1813. We have electricity now so we can buy DVDs and watch television rather than read books. Books are for an older generation, younger people on the whole do not read books.

Further in-depth research, presented by the University of Sheffield, suggests that there are strong indicators of the importance of literacy, reading, and writing, among other factors, in contributing to positive social mobility. The review also suggests that reading 'rubs off' in the home, with families playing a crucial role in fostering a love of reading.


Today we'll be holding a conference, which will be attended by high profile speakers including MPs Alan Johnson and Liam Fox, and the Waterstones Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman, in a bid to kick start a national conversation about improving social mobility by encouraging reading earlier and more often.


Alan Johnson MP said:

I simply can't imagine how my life would have turned out without books. Worryingly, far too many children don't' get the opportunity to develop a love of books. It can be a life changing experience, which is why the work that Book Trust carries out is so important. Improving social mobility relies on people feeling empowered to write their own story. Without opening up books, there can be no happy ending.



Research resources


Reading Habits survey: executive summary 

Reading Habits survey: full report


Attitudes to reading and writing and their links with social mobility 1914-2014: executive summary

Attitudes to reading and writing and their links with social mobility 1914-2014: full report

View the pictures from the Reading Changes Lives conference






This survey questioned too small a sample and the extrapolation from its data shows a poor grasp of reality. Wealthier households own more books because they have more money. I live on a social housing estate with high unemployment and terrible social problems, but I know scores of families who enjoy reading and take their kids to the library - or did till the council closed out local one and put vending machines in the town centre one. In my own household there are at least 500 print books, and each of us has an e-reader with at least another 100 books on those. We all read daily AND we like to watch dvds. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Melanie Smallman
11 March 2014

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