There’s been a lot of talk lately about the lack of kids reading for pleasure. It seems that the statistical numbers are dropping, and less children are finding solace in the written word. If you simply do a google search on the subject, a plethora of articles will appear with opinions and suggestions and discussions from all over the world. I’ll give you yet another.
I don’t remember ever despising books. I seem to have always savoured them, even as a very small child. However, I don’t think that this would be the case had I not been encouraged to read. It’s not like I come from a super rich family that could afford all of the new toys and gadgets. I am the product of a single mother who lived in her childhood home (with her parents and three brothers) for the first three years of my life. One thing that we did have was books. Dr. Seuss, Robert Munsch, Mercer Mayer, Stan and Jan Berenstein, and many others told me stories in the quiet evenings before bed while I gazed at the teddy bear wallpaper that my grandmother picked and my grandfather applied (according to family legend, it was the only room that he has ever willingly papered).
As I grew, my tastes changed, and so did the books in the house. When I first decided that I was interested in animals, my grandparents piled books like Black Beauty, Beautiful Joe, and The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be on my lap. Since they had read the books themselves, conversations about the stories became part of the norm. Although I no longer lived with my grandparents, I spent many of my weekends tucked away in a corner of the old red shingled farmhouse with a book in my hands and a plate of fresh cookies within reach.
My grandparents would find something for me to read no matter what I was interested in at the time. From animals, to Egypt, to The Romanovs, to Tolkien and beyond. If they didn’t have a book pertaining to the subject already in their collection, my grandmother would pick up whatever she thought I would like second-hand from a used bookstore or a flea market. Their collection has no rhyme or reason, there are books piled in all kinds of secret places, holding their secrets tight until you find them there, shining with information and calling your name.
I believe that children won’t read for pleasure unless taught. I also believe that in order to show the children in your life how magical books can be, you need to nurture their interests. I never would have been interested in a mystery book as a child, or even now really. If the only books that I had been encouraged to read were outside of my interests at the time, how would they catch (and keep) my interest? They wouldn’t.
In order to get people to read, we need to show them the power that books hold. Their interests may be different than our own, so we need to provide them with content that suits them, not us. It can be a tough pill to swallow hearing that someone doesn’t think a book was as brilliant as you did, but just tell yourself that it’s for the greater good.
To encourage a growing child to read, books should be a part of your home and your life. Real books, not just the ones that you can read onscreen. They should be visible and inviting. They should be available to grab your hand and pull you into another world when it suits you, not hidden away in a file on your e-reader or jammed into a storage box.
I think that fewer kids are reading because fewer kids are being encouraged to read. They need to be shown that there are books about almost anything, that there are characters and stories that will fit their interests and expand their imaginations. How would they know that books like that exist if we aren’t showing them?
Why do you think that fewer kids are reading? What do you do to encourage the kids in your life to read?