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Research on NIE and Youth Readership

The Newspaper Association of America Foundation has published three research reports citing the benefits of Newspaper in Education programs and youth/teen pages in newspapers. The following summaries are verbatim excerpts from the text of those reports.

Growing Lifelong Readers - The Impact of Student Involvement with Newspapers on Adult Readership - "More than six out of ten of those with high school newspaper exposure during childhood are regular readers as adults, compared to only 38 percent of those with no exposure."

Lifelong Readers ... The Role of Teen Content - "Of the young adults who read both the local newspaper and the teen section as teens, nearly 78 percent said they read a weekday newspaper in the past week ... compared with 34 percent who had neither read the teen section or the newspaper when they were 13 to 17 years old."

Lifelong Readers ... Driving Civic Engagement - "For those young adults between the ages of 25 and 29, a major predictor (of involvement in civic activities) was the number of online news sites they visited as teens ... and two-thirds of those surveyed said they currently read a local daily newspaper during an average week."

Growing Lifelong Readers ... The Impact of Student Involvement with Newspapers on Adult Readership

When we examine the relationship between newspaper exposure as a student and current newspaper readership patterns, we find that there is a very strong relationship. Individuals with a high level of newspaper exposure as students are much more likely to be current regular readers of a newspaper. For example:

- 62 percent of those with high exposure read a weekday newspaper regularly versus only 38 percent of those with no exposure when they were students.

If we examine the impact of newspaper involvement in elementary, middle and high school separately, we find that high involvement is associated with higher adult readership for every level of school. However, the impact appears to be slightly greater at the middle and high school levels.

The impact of exposure to newspaper involvement programs appears equally strong among 18-to-24-year-olds and 25-to-34-year olds -- suggesting that the impact does not decline over time.

The majority (56 percent) of those who attended middle/junior high school recall using newspapers in the classroom. For example, 91 percent recall talking about newspaper articles in class.

More than two thirds of respondents recall using newspapers in high school. Among those who used newspapers in high school, 50 percent recall a class where newspapers were distributed and 33 percent recall taking a course that covered journalism or newspaper production.

The types of newspaper usage that represent the most formal, organized approach to newspapers among newspapers are:

- Having a class where newspapers were distributed to the students

- Having a class where using a newspaper was integrated into the curriculum as part of social studies, reading, math or another subject.

The association between parents' readership when growing up and exposure to newspapers in school when growing up is limited. There is an association between a family's reading and discussing newspaper contents and newspaper involvement. Perhaps this was a consequence of student newspaper programs.

Respondents describe using newspapers in school in very positive terms - as not only educational and informative, but also fun, entertaining and a welcome change.

Most young adults say they began reading in their mid-teens.

Download the full report ... a PDF file.

Lifelong Readers ... The Role of Teen Content

This report provides hard statistical data that newspaper content for teens, by teens and related to teens strongly bolsters a newspaper's ability to attract young readers and keep them as they age.

One result of this study should be a realization by newspapers that if they direct content to theiri pre-teen and teen readers, they can build future readership among 18-to-34-year-olds without additional initiatives.

The survey determined that 75 percent of the respondents who read newspaper content for teens when they were 13 to 17 years old are currently reading their local paper at least once a week. Only 44 percent of those who did not read the teen section are now reading their local paper at least once a week.

The study also uncovered a similarly strong connection between the teen sections and later use of the newspaper's website. Reading the newspaper during the teen years increases the odds of visiting the website as a young adult. However, reading the teen section as well provides a significantly larger boost to later website usage.

Three fourths of the young adults who read the newspaper and its teen section between the ages of 13 and 17 said they have visited a newspaper website, and 42 percent said they have done so in the past 30 days.

What attracts teens to teen sections? Personal relevance is key. The study determined that content specifically written for and about teens is the strongest driver of teen section reading. Personal connections are a strong secondary attraction, including writing for the section or being mentioned in an article, or knowing others who were similarly involved.

Thirty percent of those interviewed said "teencentric" content was the main reason they read the teen sections.

Download the full report ... a PDF file.

Lifelong Readers ... Driving Civic Engagement

Programs that encourage newspaper reading by teens also facilitate civic engagement 10 to 15 years later when the young people have moved beyond high school and/or college and are taking their place in their communities.

The impact of newspapers on future civic engagement is more pronounced if the respondents had two or more of the newspaper-related experiences as teens.

The link to newspapers was established by responses from people who remembered newspapers being used in their high school classes, those who had homework assignments that included reading newspapers, and those who remembered reading or looking at teen-focused content in their local newspapers.

In addition, the use of online news sources as teens is a strong predictor of future civic engagement.

This is more pronounced for those ages 25 to 29 than those ages 30 to 34, primarily because the Internet was not such a dominant force during high school for the older group.

For example, 38 percent of the 25-to-29-year-olds visited online news sites as teens, compared with 11 percent of the 30-to-34-year-olds.

In short, teen newspaper exposure matters.

Among the young adults questioned in the survey, 86 percent said they now get most of their news in an average week from television, followed closely by 79 percent who use the Internet. The Internet, however, beats out TV for the largest number of daily news consumers (37 percent).

Two-thirds of those surveyed (67 percent) said they currently read a local daily newspaper during an average week, but only 15 percent read the local paper all seven days.

The message to newspapers is equally clear:

- Find ways to ensure that teens are encouraged to use newspapers in both classrooms and homework assignments, and reach out to the same group with teen content.

- Encourage and promote discussions of current events between teens and their parents or guardians, as well as with other teens.

- Give the newspaper website the same priority as the print product, because young people are turning more and more to online for their news.

By taking these steps, not only will newspapers be more likely to develop a solid core of future readers, but their communities also will benefit from the efforts and commitment of those young adults to make the world a better place.

Download the full report ... a PDF file.

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