Study: Nearly two-thirds of Chinese adults read no books last year

Society & Culture

How many books did you read last year? If you’re a Chinese adult, the answer is likely — statistically speaking — zero. That’s according to a new study (in Chinese) published by Renmin University of China, which discovered that nearly two-thirds of all Chinese over the age of 18 read no books in their leisure time in 2017.

The study was part of the 2017 Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS) conducted by the National Survey Research Center at Renmin University of China. It revealed that about 63 percent of the respondents didn’t read any books in their free time.

For context, the average American reads about 12 books per year. Furthermore, “about three-quarters (74%) of Americans have read a book in the past 12 months in any format, a figure that has remained largely unchanged since 2012,” according to Pew Research.

The main focus of CGSS’s research was teenagers born in the 2000s. Since 2013, the researchers have tracked the reading habits of 10,279 students from 112 middle schools across the country. Upon their graduation in 2017, these teenagers would have completed their nine-year compulsory education. The study found that within the first year after graduation, 12.2 percent of them didn’t read any books not required by school, and less than 50 percent of the respondents read more than five books for fun.

Additionally, the survey found out that teenage girls read on average two more books than boys, 15 compared to 13. The survey also revealed that teenagers have a penchant for fiction. More than 70 percent of them noted that fiction is the literary genre that they read the most, followed by motivational books and popular science books.

The fact that so many young adults are not engaged in leisure reading has raised some concerns from education experts. Wang Weidong 王卫东, deputy head of the research center, argues that it is imperative to encourage this generation to read more and guide them to read better.