Short and Sweet Solution to Lift Literacy

Online serials may be key in promoting reading for younger Australians.
May 8, 2024
If kids can't sit still for long enough to read a book, short form internet serials might be a way to encourage reading.

Literacy and reading skills are getting weaker for many Aussie kids and at least part of the problem is a lack of attention span.

You might blame it on short form media like TikTok and the plethora of online distractions but the concentration needed to read a book is simply missing in action for many.

One in three Australian school children are behind where they should be on literacy. The latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results are even more dire. Just over half of Australian students achieved the National Proficiency Standard (57 per cent in reading). Further, the number of "low performers" has increased.

More stats underline the issue: nine in ten children (90 per cent) spend at least one hour a week on screen-based activities, with a rise in children spending more than 20 hours a week on their devices.

A gender gap is increasing in how children are reading with only 68 per cent of boys reading for pleasure as compared to 77 per cent of girls.

Further, reading for pleasure decreases in popularity over time (63 per cent of 12 to 14-year-olds read books compared with 76 per cent of 5 to 8-year-olds).

Arresting this decline is a must and one of the easiest solutions might be online serials. Online serials, such as The Wandering Inn, are website specific stories where readers can access an entire novel, or series for free. A relatively new phenomenon, online serials are a popular form of reading and one that can keep children reading and attract new readers.

They are already increasingly popular for adult Australians with nearly a tenth (9%) of Australians reading websites for a specific story/creator. Younger Australians are also keener on web serials with nearly a fifth (19%) of Gen Z reading them.

Of The Wandering Inn’s readership 15.3 per cent is seventeen and under, and more interestingly, 85.4 per cent of their readership is male. Males tend to read less than females and are more likely to be poor readers. Finding stories and mediums that appeal to males could close the gender gap when it comes to reading.

Online serials tend to be looser with genre than published novels meaning they’re often either different to what young readers have encountered before or more likely to align with eclectic interests.

They feature shorter character and story arcs that take place within a continuing story. These create easy to digest stories and a faster feeling of accomplishment for readers.

The form is similar to other internet based actives with shorter arcs akin to watching short videos and online, easy access. This means they are familiar and easier to use for a younger digitally native generation.

And in The Wandering Inn's case, the genre-bending RPG aspects of the story appeal to a cohort of gamers that are non-traditionally readers.

Another upside is that they’re often free and can be accessed across existing devices.

Lifelong reading can bring numerous benefits beyond improving comprehension and school performance and online serials are an emerging important part of promoting it.