How Much Do Taiwanese Children Read?

A while back, I discussed the reading habits of Taiwanese children. I speculated that there is a very high rate of pleasure reading going on among Taiwanese children and that this has to be taken into account in explanations of Taiwan’s high rate of literacy. Stephen Krashen just informed me of a recent study that appears to confirm this. Dr. Chen Su-yen of National Tsing Hwa University reports the following in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy.

Major finding is that college students in Taiwan read quite a bit on their own: First-year university students read about 1.5 hours per day, third year read 1.8 hours per day. This is a lot more than even the highest estimate of college student reading in the US (2.5 to 4.75 hours per week). It is less than Taiwanese children do; according to a survey done in 2000, Taiwanese elementary school children read about 2.23 hours per day.

For those interested in reading the full text, the complete citation is

Extracurricular reading habits of college students in Taiwan: Findings from two national surveys. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. 50(8): 642.

You should be able to find this journal quite easily. It is listed on the increasingly important (at least in Taiwan) SSCI (journal 868) and is held in major libraries, such as that of National Taiwan University.

NOTE: In response to Kerim’s question, Stephen Krashen brought to my attention an article he published in Knowledge Quest, a periodical of the American Library Association. The article discusses an international comparison of reading scores and provides data allowing a comparison of effects of reading different kinds of texts on reading comprehension. The article itself can be viewed here.

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Comments

I’m always dubious about studies which rely on self-reported activity. I just don’t trust people to report accurately how much they read. But a bigger question I would have is with regard to the nature of the reading matter. Does this include Mangas and BBS threads, or is it confined to literature? I think everyone would agree that most young people today probably read a lot more than the previous generation, simply because so much time is spent online. But there may be relatively less time spent in careful reading of long-form texts such as novels.

I agree with you about self-report studies, nevertheless, they are widely used in educational studies. This article was published in a journal widely regarded as one of the top in its field and listed on the all important (at least in Taiwan) SSCI. So while we can speculate on its epistemological value, its professional value is without question.

I have no doubt that much of this reading is aimed at comics or other popular texts. Analysis of language used in English-language comics has found that vocabulary and grammatical structure is quite complex. My limited exposure to Chinese-language comics indicates the language used is also quite complex. Perhaps you have more exposure to comics that you can share.

I have no doubt that there are outcome differences in children who read novels versus children who read comics. It is even possible that these outcomes can be interpreted in terms of level of literacy achieved. My point however addressed earlier speculation that high levels of literacy in Taiwan were achieved through drills and test preparation. These results confirm my earlier beliefs that while children in Taiwan are exposed to large numbers of characters through drill and test preparation, it is not clear at all the connection between this and achieved levels of literacy.

In response to Kerim Friedman’s question, yes, the survey included all kinds of reading, including newspapers and mangas.

Hmmm….my daughter’s fellow students in the elementary school seem to read quite a bit. But university students? Speaking as both an instructor at one university and a PHD student at another, I wouldn’t have said the college students read very much.

Michael

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