New survey says reading connects a nation in lockdown

  • Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) of people are reading more during lockdown
  • Particular spike among young people (18-24) where almost half (45%) are reading more than before lockdown
  • 7 in 10 have been reading fiction
  • Crime and Classics very popular categories
  • Books about fictional epidemics including The Plague by Albert Camus and The Viral Storm by Nathan D. Wolfe (up 1393.2%) are seeing huge sales
  • Survey results by The Reading Agency to mark World Book Night, celebration of books and reading

The Reading Agency has revealed that the nation is reading more during lockdown with 1 in 3 adults reading more, rising to almost one in two (45%) 18-24 year olds.

Announced on World Book Night, the annual celebration of reading, The Reading Agency is pleased that the survey shows in these difficult times that more people are enjoying the pleasure of a book – in print, in e or in audio.

31% of UK people surveyed (Populus Omnibus survey, 15-16 April, sample 2,103) were reading more since the lockdown began, 51% surveyed said they their reading habits hadn’t changed, and only 3% were reading less.

Many people cited reading as a form of release, escapism or distraction and many people also said that having more time was the key driver for increased reading during the lockdown.

Debbie Hicks, The Reading Agency, said:
“This year’s World Book Night celebrations provides the perfect opportunity to showcase the proven power of reading to connect people through reading. Never has this connectivity been needed more than at this anxious time of social distancing. Talking about reading and sharing book recommendations on April 23 as part of #Reading Hour will bring individuals, friends and families together to connect a nation in self isolation, whilst also stimulating learning and creativity and providing escapism and relief.”

Responses from people surveyed included:

“I can lose myself in a book and it sort of keeps me company as my partner and I live in different places and we have to be on lock down in our own homes many miles apart.”
Female, 75

“It has been something I have gotten into, wanting to read on for excitement. It passes the time and I’m learning new things.”
Female, 20

“It takes me to another, better place and allows me to escape the current situation for a while.”
Female, 67

Other stats revealed include:
• 65+ were the most likely to say reading was beneficial for them (56%)
• Regionally, respondents in Northern Ireland were most likely to say they are reading more since the lockdown began – 39% reading more, followed by:
• London – 34% reading more
• Scotland – 30% reading more
• North East – 33% reading more
• Wales – 31% reading more
• East Midlands – 31% reading more
• South East – 32% reading more
• East – 30% reading more
• Yorkshire & Humberside – 27% reading more

Genres being read:
• The survey showed that people indicated they were reading the same genres as previously, just increasing amount of books.
• Publishers have reported large rises in classic literature e.g. Penguin Classics sales increased 64.5% on the week before lockdown – books were stockpiled too.
• Literature about fictional epidemics including The Plague by Albert Camus and The Viral Storm by Nathan D. Wolfe (up 1393.2%) has done very well.
• 18-24 year olds reading non-fiction (36%), crime fiction (20%) and classic literature (16%)

Find out more about World Book Night.

Looking for your next read? The World Book Night booklist has something for everyone.

Join in the #ReadingHour from 7-8pm on 23 April. Read alone, aloud with someone else, or call a friend to swap recommendations. Share what you’re doing on social media using #WorldBookNight and #ReadingHour.

Reading connects a nation in self-isolation

World Book Night 2020 – the national campaign will go ahead next month

The Reading Agency asks everyone to join in this digital celebration of books on World Book Night – Thursday 23 April

  • Virtual parties, digital activities, author broadcasts, and #ReadingHour
  • Free audiobooks to download
  • Booklist curated with publishers provides reading suggestions
  • Postponed: Book giveaway of 50,000 books through 370 organisations including charities, prisons, care homes, football clubs to take place later in the year

The Reading Agency has announced that the UK’s World Book Night celebrations, to be held on Thursday 23rd April 2020, will be digital as plans are modified due to Covid-19.

For the annual celebration of reading, The Reading Agency is encouraging the nation to share in the pleasure of enjoying a book – in print, in e or in audio. As part of the celebrations, The Reading Agency is holding a Reading Hour, inviting everyone to take time out to read with family, enjoy a chapter by themselves or talk about books with others using the hashtag #ReadingHour online. In addition, World Book Night is encouraging readers to share a book on the day, recommending or sending a book to a friend. With 1 in 6 people in the England having low literacy levels, readers are encouraged to pass on a book to someone who would benefit from the proven power of reading.

Online activity will also see authors from the booklist live broadcasting throughout the day on social media, and a toolkit will provide the public with ideas on how they can celebrate and share the joy of reading without leaving their homes.

This year’s list of books features How to Be a Footballer by Peter Crouch, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, Double Crossed by Brian Wood, Diversify by June Sarpong, The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and many more.

As well as print books, this year for the first time 5,000 free audiobooks will be given away to members of the public, as The Reading Agency seeks to make reading available to the widest possible audience. Anyone can apply online to receive a free audiobook by Thursday 9th April, and recipients will be chosen at random and sent a single-use download code on World Book Night.

World Book Night has again teamed up with publishers to give away over 50,000 books in all formats. However, this year, following government advice, the print books will not be distributed on 23rd April, but will get to the 370 selected organisations later in the year.

Organisations chosen to giveaway books include prisons, hospitals, youth centres, care homes and mental health groups. All organisations have been selected by The Reading Agency to give away books and spread the joy of reading to those who don’t regularly read for pleasure or have access to books. Successful organisations include York City Football Club which plans to give books away at a home game, The Disability Foundation, Rethink Mental Illness, The Salvation Army, and more. World Book Night aims to support everyone in finding more time to read, as reading is proven to improve mental health, self-esteem, empathy, concentration, sleeping patterns and more (source: The Reading Agency).

Debbie Hicks, The Reading Agency, said: “Books have the power to change lives and connect us up in these difficult times. World Book Night will, with the generous support of publishers and other partners, be a key moment to come together to celebrate this power and inspire people across the UK and Ireland to enjoy reading. With the current situation with Covid-19, our plans to distribute books have altered, however we have lots of exciting things being planned to get everyone involved in the celebration at home and online.”

Raynor Winn, author of The Salt Path, said: “When I was a little girl reading by torchlight under the bedcovers, I couldn’t possibly have imagined how books would change my life. So to have The Salt Path chosen for World Book Night is quite magical, I’m very proud to add my written words to the millions of others tonight and watch their transformative power change more lives.”

Sophia Thakur, author of Somebody Give This Heart a Pen, said: “Our own world can be so many things in a day. From perfect to terrifying to undeniably impossible to understand. Escaping that, to tuck your mind into other worlds is a luxury everyone deserves. And sometimes. If we’re lucky, we can pull some more sense back into ours. I’m so excited that Somebody Give This Heart a Pen has been chosen to tell its stories on World Book Night. I hope it can encourage people to own down their own hearts.”

Get involved

Follow the latest developments on social media: @WorldBookNight / @ReadingAgency
#WorldBookNight / #ReadingHour

Sign up to receive a free audiobook download

Update on Summer Reading Challenge 2020 plans

In light of the current situation affecting the delivery of all public services The Reading Agency, Libraries Connected, Arts Council England and ASCEL have agreed that it will not be possible to deliver the Summer Reading Challenge in its usual print format throughout public libraries this summer. However, we remain committed to improving lives through the proven power of reading, and are working hard to fast track a high-quality digital offer which we plan to offer both to interested library services and direct to the reader.

Never has reading been so important to supporting wellbeing, creativity and learning than at the current time. However long the current situation lasts, The Reading Agency will continue to inspire children to engage with reading in fun and innovative ways, and will do all we can to create new and exciting opportunities for our audiences.

If you work for a library service and plan to deliver the Summer Reading Challenge this year, please check our FAQs page for more information. Alternatively do get in contact via email so we can discuss options and answer any further questions that you may have about the 2020 Challenge.

While we develop our digital Challenge offer, The Reading Agency have also created a toolkit which is now available to download and the organisation will be keeping everyone up to date with news and resources through newsletters and via our social media channels. Look out for further updates on our exciting new offer by signing up to our newsletter.

The Reading Agency

Join our mailing list

Get our newsletters to stay up to date with programme news, resources, news and more.

Back to Top