Teenagers 'ditch books for Twitter and Facebook'

Under a quarter of teenagers are "frequent" readers of books as the majority spend their spare time online, according to a new study.

Over half of six to eight year-olds are frequent readers, reading books five to seven days a week - but this drops off dramatically as children enter their teenage years, the research suggests.

Around a quarter (24%) of 12 to 14-year-olds pick up a book this often, and this drops to just 17% of 15 to 17-year-olds.

A child's enjoyment of reading also declines with age, with 80% of those aged six to eight reporting that they love or like reading, compared with just 43% of 15 to 17-year-olds.

Social media trumps Tolkien for many teenagers. Credit: PA

As children turn their backs on books as they get older, they are spending more time playing games or logging on to the internet via tablets or smartphones instead.

Three quarters (76%) of 15 to 17-year-olds visit social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter five to seven days a week and 80% go on smartphones this often.

The findings emerged in the UK's first ever The Kids & Family Reading Report, commissioned by the children's publishing company Scholastic.

The wide-ranging YouGov survey questioned 1,755 parents and children about reading habits