How many books *could a person read in their lifetime?
In England, one and six people have very poor literacy skills. In Scotland, it’s one in four; in Wales, one in eight people; in Northern Ireland, one in five (NLT).
According to the ONS (2020), life expectancy in England and Wales was 78.6 years for males and 82.6 years for females. Let’s also consider that a person starts to read books independently at the age of 6 (optimistic for some if we consider literacy rates), but let’s aim high!
The average adult reader reads about 200 to 250 words per minute. I’ve always used this information to work out how to write short and succinct blog posts! The average time someone spends on a blog (on this site) is just 72 seconds before they head off and visit three other pages.
So, most of you won’t read to the bottom of this blog!
The average book length is approximately 64,000 words (which is about 250-300 pages). I can vouch for this!
In the not-too-far-away perfect world, this average person could spend about an hour reading each day.
With these assumptions and with a reading speed of 200 words per minute, this would equate to 12,000 words per hour. So, to finish a 64,000-word book, it would take approximately 64,000/12,000 = 5.33 hours.
If a person reads for one hour a day, it would take around 6 days to finish a book. This sounds about right; I can recall all those lovely periods of the year during the summer or festive holidays when you can really get into a book and interrupted. You may be able to finish one or two I’ve been sitting on your side tables …
Using these rough calculations, a person could finish about 60 books in a year (365/6).
So if a person begins reading at 6 and lives to 81, they would have 75 years of reading. Wow! Now, if we multiply this by the 60 books per year, we can estimate 4,500 books read in a lifetime.
If you achieve this, then you’d know a hell of a lot of stuff!
As a teacher, parent and governor, I’ve always found this a fascinating question to consider. The breadth and depth of everything you would know and have experienced from reading books would be incredible.
How do we instil a lifelong love for reading in our young people and those with poor literacy?
Well, to start with, we need role models and we need books to be affordable and available. I’m a big fan of audible books, but when you don’t see them, it’s all too easy to forget that they’re there.
I hope that every school continues to have a physical library regardless of the digital era and that every home has a space big enough for a small bookcase of books …
I guess the key question is for all, not just those who love reading, or for those generally interested in improving literacy rates for children and adults: We only have one life, so what books are you going to read in the time you have available?
Here’s a shameless plug to help you get started.